This Is How We Camp

This is how we wake up.

This is how we have lunch.

 

And here’s how you can have a bangin’ lunch too:

  • Dinner Rolls
  • Mayo
  • Spicy Mustard
  • Fresh Taragon leaves (not optional, it makes the sandwich incomprable!)
  • Mixed Greens
  • Very Thinly Sliced Onions
  • Avocado
  • Salami

 

  1. Put it all together into a sandwich, making sure to put the mayo into hearts.

 

This is how we follow up, with dinner on the fire:

Marinate your steak in a ziploc bag, grill it up on a fire that looks like this:

Get those grill marks, and serve it with some fennel potato salad:

You’ll be a happy camper, too.

Thanks to Amy Tso for photos

Fiddlehead Ferns – A Fun, but Short-lasting and Potentially Dangerous Novelty

A month and a half or so ago, fiddlehead ferns were in season. They’re awesome. I have to be honest though, their “awesomeness” is more in their novelty than their flavor. They’re OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive, as well as a bit hard to find. I read another blog claiming that they were available for $6/lb in Boston this past season – but I don’t believe it. I paid $20/lb for them (albeit at Bi-Rite – a store that I love, but is admittedly super expensive).

Regardless, however, the season is over so it doesn’t much matter their cost, does it? The season is two – maaaaaybe three – weeks long in the middle of May; they’re the unfurled fronds of the Ostrich Fern, which – once furled – is supposedly a supercarcinogen to the point of being almost poisonous. There’s another edible fern, as well, called the Bracken Fern that’s supposedly a lot more dangerous. You get mixed information depending on what you read. I’m not a botanist, so I don’t know the whole truth behind the “poisonous” Ostrich Fern, but I do know two things.

1. There was a series of accounts of wacky food poisoning in New York and Quebec because of “unidentified toxins” in the plant – these plants, though, are late harvest.

2. I have eaten them more than once and had no problem, and so have a grip of friends.

As far as I can tell, most of the toxins come out as they start to open. So get them while their hot, and forget the ones that are three weeks into the season. Unless you like blowing chunks and getting stomach cancer – in which case, I say go hunt some ferns down now, in July, and feast near strong and proper plumbing.

And now, back to the important part – the eating part. Like I said, I think their fame is for their novelty and less for their actual flavor. Raw (and even a little cooked) they’re bitter, funky and stringy. I hear people compare them to asparagus, and that’s a lie. Obviously I wouldn’t eat raw asparagus because that’s gross, but cooked it’s meaty, earthy and perfect. Ferns, when cooked, are still a little stringy, a little bitter but have a nice juicy crunchy bite – a little like biting into a crispy succulent. There is some spice, a little earthiness, but you end up getting most of your desired flavor from what you cook it in; and to do so, follow these quick and simple instructions and you’ll be on your way to a delicious fiddlehead fern salad:

    1. Trim off any brown part at the end and rinse them off in a colander.

    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and blanch the ferns for 2 or so minutes (til bright green) then shock ’em in an ice bath.

    3. In a deep saute pan, heat up equal parts butter, duck fat and bacon fat. It’s ready when it’s bubbly, melted and starting to brown (but not yet brown).

    4. Add the cleaned ferns (careful, you don’t wanna get burned by greasy fat popping on you!) to the fat, add a super tiny pinch of salt (the bacon fat is gonna salt it up) a couple twists of fresh ground pepper, a clove or two of finely minced garlic, and a hefty pinch of heat – meaning cayenne, red pepper flakes, ground chili, or (my choice) korean red chili flakes and the juice of half a lemon. The heat from the cayenne/pepper flakes/chili whatever and the acid in the lemon will act to cut through the thickness of all the fats (which add some complexity to the bitterness) and balance out the bitterness even more.

    5. Fry it like this for a hot minute, till just a little browned (but don’t let the butter and fats burn!), then drain it like you would bacon – in paper towels or a fine colander. (save the left over renderings for another dish)

    6. Toss the still warm ferns with raw squash blossoms. While they’re cooling, fry up a couple of pieces of bacon, nice and crispy and dice ’em into bite sized bits; separately whisk together equal parts champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with a little salt and pepper. While the bacon is still warm, toss it all together (ferns, blossoms and bacon) with some mixed greens, goat cheese with a teeny tiny bit of the vinaigrette (really light). Some delish additions could be some shaved pickled onions or diced calabrian chilis.

    7. Now eat it!

And just for fun, a fiddlehead wine recipe! (I can’t wait til next season to give it a shot!)

Buffalo Chili!? Yep, Buffalo Chili.

(first off – apologies for the long await for a new post. a few weeks of vacation and house guests temporarily halted my posts. vacation is done, now, though. so anyways….)

Me and the fellow recently took a break from cloudy, chilly northern California and made our way to my parent’s place in sunny, warm southern California.

The culinary significance of this is that my parents have – hands down – the sweetest kitchen around. Thus, before visiting, I spend my sleep time dreaming of all the things I can do in there. When I arrived, I raided the fridge and freezer and found some bitchin’ (my new favorite word) items. Included in these items was fresh-from-the-farm ground buffalo. What to do!?

Meatballs? Lasagna? Pizza topping? Chili!

You could, of course, always substitute beef or turkey, or whatever the hell you want for the buffalo, but if its available, I strongly encourage using it. The corn – you have to use fresh off the cob. It adds the perfeft crunch and sweetness. Your chili will suffer in a big way if you choose canned or frozen. Its unacceptable.

Also, put 2/3 (or so) of the spices in just after the onion and garlic but before everything else, let them cook for about 3 or so minutes, stirring just a little. This will toast them, making them more aromatic and flavorful.

I’ve made the resolution to include more pairings, so try it with a hoppy California IPA beer (try Lagunitas) if you make it real spicy (hops cut heat) or a delish smoked beer (Rauschbier) if you can get your hands on it. Good picks might be Allagash Burnham Road or Smoke Ale from Rogue. If you’re a wine drinker, try a Spanish Grenache.

buffalochili1

Buffalo Chili

    1lb ground buffalo
    14.5oz canned stewed tomatoes (fire roasted are best)1 white onion, coarsely chopped
    3/4-1.5 cups beef or veal stock
    1 white onion, coarsely chopped
    2 pasilla peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled and chopped (see below)
    1 cup chopped carrots
    2 strips of bacon, uncooked and coarsely chopped
    2 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
    2 ears worth of fresh corn kernels

    1t mexican oregano
    1t cayenne pepper (more or less, depending on your heat desire)
    1T chili powder
    1T chipotle powder
    1t mustard powder
    1T cumin
    1T juice from canned jalapenos

    1T olive oil, butter or bacon grease

    Mild cheddar or jack cheese, shredded
    Tortilla chips


    1. In large pot on medium heat, add olive oil, onions, garlic and uncooked bacon until onions soften
    2. Mix in 2/3 or so of the spices, stirring a bit til aromatic
    3. Add in buffalo meat, tomatoes and carrots, let it cook for 8 minutes, or until the meat looks less pink
    4. Pour in half of the broth, stir, let cook for another 8-10 minutes
    5. Start adding in the rest of the spices, stirring
    6. Add peppers and jalapeno juice
    7. Slowly add broth, remembering its going to cook down and thicken so do it slowly
    8. Get all the spices in there, cover it and cook nice and slow on medium heat, about 20 minutes
    9. Add in corn and stir til it tastes good
    10. Salt and pepper to taste and mix in
    11. Top with cheese and the crumbled bacon, add the toppers you love (mmmm avocado!).

    Eat it!

    *To roast the peppers, heat your oven to 400, coat the peppers in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on the top shelf until starting to brown and bubble on the outside. Let them cool and you should be able to easily pull the skin away. Easy as A-B-C!

Cured Pork

Somewhere in the development of commercial agriculture, the artisanship of food began to deteriorate…. but what remains can still be found holding strong in charcuterie. The best of the best within this category (save for head cheese) lies in all the varieties of cured porks. In this first installment of a series on cured pork and its uses, I will guide you through how its made, where its made, and when to use it and hopefully impart in you a little more of a love for these products, what goes into them and the glory they can create for your plate.

Guanciale

What:
Guanciale is an unsmoked cut of pork cheek or jowl, seasoned with salt and black or red pepper and marinated for 3 weeks to 40 days, then hung to dry.

Where:
Italy, traditionally in Umbria and Lazzo. Known aliases include

When:
Use to lard pork chops (link), spaghetti all’amatriciana, spaghetti alla carbonara. Just like you would bacon, save the fat from frying and use in sauces and other recipes to infuse them with the rich flavor. Fry like bacon or pancetta for pasta sauces, salad toppings etc.

*While it seems to be a popular consensus that you just can’t get Guanciale outside of Italy, its not true. The first Italian deli I asked (which also happens to be my favorite), Lucca Ravioli had it. I tried my next favorite Italian deli, Molinari’s in North Beach, also had it. So, that’s 2 out of 2. Not as rare in the states as it seems, I guess.

Bacon

What: There are several versions of what we all believe to be the true “definition” of bacon. Generally, it’s cut from the sides, belly, or back of a pig, then cured, smoked, or both. The USDA definition, however, is “the cured belly of a swine carcass”; other cuts and characteristics must be separately qualified (e.g., “smoked pork loin bacon”). I’m going to be honest and say that – while I admit it is, indeed, accurate – the use of the word “carcass” in a government approved definition of food is unsettling.

When: just about anytime, I can’t possibly list them all. Always save bacon fat to cook with. Great for pan sauces, cream sauces, wrap meat with it, use it to lard or bard (link) Replace for guanciale in carbonara,

*If you’re a fan of the fun that bacon brings, take a look at the Seattle-based bacon-loving block Iheartbacon.com, or baconunwrapped.com.

Prosciutto

What:
Though literally just the Italian word for “ham”, in English, prosciutto refers to an aged, dry-cured, spiced Italian ham, sliced very thin (the thinner the better) and served raw. In Italian, the equivalent of this would be prosciutto-crudo (raw ham).

Where: Regional varieties come from all over Italy, the most well known from Parma (Prosciutto di Parma), Tuscany and Emilia.

When: Perfect alone just as it is, or very traditionally with blue cheese or wrapped around quartered figs. Though when cooked, prosciutto is touchy, when used right, it can be amazing. It takes on a much stronger, almost gamey flavor when cooked, and so should be used in conjunction with equally rich or aggressive foods – heavy cream sauce, stuffed into pork chops with blue cheese, duck-fat mashed potatoes (link) etc.

Some Known Aliases: Jamon Serrano is the Spanish version, rolled in sea salt and dried for one year to 18 months, usually containing less fat. Culatello is always from Parma, Italy and is created using the best part of the meat from the prosciutto cut. It is salted, spiced and tucked into a pig’s bladder and dried for two to three months, then aged in an humid environment.

Pancetta

What:
Pancetta is similar to American “streaky bacon” (the most common cut in the United States). The belly of a pork is salt cured and spiced (nutmeg, pepper, fennel, dried ground hot peppers and garlic are most commonly used), and dried for three-or-so months and usually not smoked. There are many varieties, and in Italy each region produces its own type.

Where:
Varieties are specific to regions in Italy, Croatia and Spain.

When:
A good replacement for guanciale when unavailable, especially in Spaghetti al Carbonara. Fry with brussel sprouts or creamy polenta on toast, or with goat cheese on a baguette, wrap around leaks and poach, diced in spinach salad with shaved pecorino.

You can look forward to more cured meats, such as coppa, soppressata, lardo and mortadella in the upcoming “Guide to Cured Pork: Part Two”.

Bacon Mashed Potato Pie

This is a simple recipe that is great on multiple levels: It, of course, is delicious and indulgent. It’s also easy to altar to individual sized dishes by using small custard ramekins or baking dishes (see #3 on ”My Favorites”). To do this, simply divide up the bacon and line the custard or baking dishes individually the same way you would the large pie dish. This also lends itself well to experimentation with different mashed potato recipes.

Bacon Mashed Potato Pie

Ingredients:

5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into small squares
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled & roasted (see below)
1 lb bacon
1/4C. water
1 C. heavy cream
5-6T rendered duck fat (optional)
Salt & Pepper


Process:

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender enough to fall apart when stuck with a fork.

While boiling:
– Pan roast and chop garlic: Heat 2T olive oil in deep sauté pan. When hot, add peeled cloves. Sautee on high until soft and browned on both sides. Chop finely and set aside.

– Fry bacon til medium-crispy

Rinse boiled potatoes in colander and return to pot.

Mash part of the way, then add ½ of the cream, ½ of the water and chopped roasted garlic. Stir and mash, slowly adding the remainder of the water, cream and all duck fat (make sure that the fat is melted, not solid). While stirring and mashing, liberally salt and pepper with fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

When finished, line a greased 9” baking dish or 3 4” ramekins with bacon, like a piecrust.

Heap in mashed potatoes
cimg1909

Cover with remaining bacon.
baconpotato3c

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, and finish at 425 until brown and crisp on top (app 7 minutes, depending on the bacon.)