Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade Italian Sausage with Roasted Peppers on Soft Rolls

Making your own sausage is easy with the right equipment. We used our Kitchen Aid 5 quart mixer with the meat grinder attachment and a sausage stuffer accessory. I make a lot of on the spot chicken breakfast sausage now days without the casing. You can do the same with any of these recipes. Just buy some fresh ground meat, season it, shape it and cook it. That simple. And it taste better than anything that’s been setting in the meat counter for who knows how long.

Natural pork sausage casing is available anywhere they make sausage. I only buy casing that’s preserved in liquid. Dry salted casing has a tough texture once it’s reconstituted. I never know how much to buy because it’s hard to meassure the length of each casing. Tell the butcher how many pounds of meat you have and he’ll know how much to sell you. The casing we used for 15 combined pounds of meat cost us 4.00.

We are going to give you recipes for three different kinds of sausage. Italian made with pork shoulder, spicy breakfast made with chicken thighs and pheasant made from a hunting trip that Kellies boyfriend Josh went on.

Note: All sausage recipes have 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per pound of ground meat. If you are using table salt use 2 teaspoons per pound of ground meat. I know that some of you will want to adjust the spices to personalize these sausages. If you do, cook a little patty of the sausage mixture in a frying pan and taste it before stuffing the casing or serving it un-cased. You can always add more seasoning but you can’t take it out.

 Italian Sausage   

I love the fennel flavor in these Italian sausages. It reminds me of the sausages you can get from City Meats in San Francisco. The best part of making your own is that they are made from one fresh piece of meat. The pork sausage you get from your local sausage monger comes from pork scraps that were processed weeks ago. There are two way’s that butchers can get those scraps. They can buy them from a processing plant already bagged and rated for fat content. Or, they can save their own scraps until they have enough to make sausage with. Ether way, the scraps have too much time on them to taste good.

Mix these ingredients. 
3 lbs of ground pork shoulder
½ cup of ice water

Mix these ingredients.
Note:  Pre-measure the spices before pulling the ground meat out of the fridge. This will help to keep the sausage mixture cold. Once you have blended in the spices, place bowl back in the refrigerator until your ready to stuff the casings.                           

3 tablespoon of kosher salt    
3 teaspoons whole fennel seed
3 teaspoons of ground fennel seed
3 teaspoons finley chopped rosemary   
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of chipolata red pepper powder.
Note: I used one that’s 35.000 on the
scoville heat scale

Spicy Chicken Breakfast Sausage

What makes these “breakfast sausages”? It’s the brown sugar and low heat smoking. Smoke these at 180 degrees for about 6 hours or until they have an internal temperature of 160 degrees. They still taste great with out the smoking process because of the smoked paprika. I slice them in ½” thick pieces and fry them like bacon. They brown beautifully and have a smoky flavor with one-third the fat. That reminds me, I need to take one out of the freezer for tomorrows breakfast.

Mix these ingredients.
3 Lbs of ground chicken thighs
½ cup of ice water

Mix these ingredients.
Note:  Pre-measure the spices before pulling the ground meat out of the fridge. This will help to keep the sausage mixture cold. Once you have blended in the spices, place bowl back in the refrigerator until your ready to stuff the casings.

3 tablespoons of kosher salt  
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of smoked paprika 
3 teaspoons ground sage
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon of chipolata red pepper powder.
Note: I use one that’s 35.000 on the scoville
heat scale

Pheasant Sausage

Pheasant is a very lean meat and needs added fat when making sausage out of it. We are going to use bacon but pancetta or pork fat will work. It cooks very fast so I recommend pulling it off the grill at an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

Mix these ingredients   
3 lbs of ground Pheasant
2 pounds of bacon ground into the Pheasant
1/2 cup of ice water

 Mix these ingredients
Note:  Pre-measure the spices before pulling the ground meat out of the fridge. This will help to keep the sausage mixture cold. Once you have blended in the spices, place bowl back in the refrigerator until your ready to stuff the casings.

4 teaspoons of kosher salt  
3 teaspoons of finely chopped thyme
4 tablespoons of finely chopped jalapeno peppers
6 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
4 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons of fresh ground pepper

Soft Rolls

We are making our own soft rolls this time but there are great soft rolls out there. It’s not something we normally do but it’s a lot of fun. This recipe is very basic if you have one that works for you, go for it. What we’re after is a soft roll and the best way to assure that is to make wet dough using milk instead of water. You can replace the Olive Oil with butter if you like but I like the taste of OO in bread.

Mix these ingredients
2 cups of warm 2% fat milk
2-packs of dry active yeast
3 tablespoons Olive Oil

Note: You want the milk to be at 115 degrees or just warm to the touch.

Mix these ingredients            
4 cups of flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt

You know you have wet dough when it sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl. Keep in mind that kneading and shaping the dough adds more flour so keep it sticky.

Place dough in a large oiled bowl and let it double then punch it down and then let it double again and punch it down again before moving onto shaping

Size the rolls into 5oz portions then kneed into rolls and place on lightly oiled baking sheets.

Let the dough rise until it doubles in size then bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until they are as brown as the ones in the picture.

Making the Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches

Well, we got rained out. It was suppose to be a nice day but they were wrong…again. We cooked the sausages in our wood stove over some hardwood lump coal. This is a close second to cooking them with an unprocessed hard wood. I have plenty in the freezer so we can make more outside on the pit when the weather turns.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Portabella Mushrooms with Gorgonzola Cheese (Cappellone)

I first ate Cappellone at Paradise Beach Grill in Capitola, California. This is one of my favorite places on the Esplanade to sit and people watch by the beach.  When picking out your portabellas, look for intact gills and a rounded cap. The caps tend to flatten out with age and become inverted and fragile. Also avoid the ones that are unusually moist, which might indicate spoilage.

4 large Portabella mushrooms
2 cup PJC roasted chicken stock
12 oz Gorgonzola cheese
1 loaf of artisan French bread
2 cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Prep the mushrooms by removing the steams and scraping out the gills. (I like to dice the meaty part of the steams and add them to the Gorgonzola.)

Place the mushrooms in the bottom of the pit pan and crumble the Gorgonzola on top along with the diced steams.

Add 2 cups of stock. If you are substituting store bought stock for homemade, make sure it’s a low sodium one. If you are using PJC roasted stock the salt level is very low already. We are going to be reducing the stock (which changes the salt content) in this recipe while melting the Gorgonzola cheese. This will create the broth that the French bread will soak up.


Prepping the bread.

This takes a little planning if you want the proper texture. I slice the bread the day before and let it stale for 24 to 36 hours. Trust me, this will be the only time you ever get that advises from me! Normally, I don’t recommend eating day old bread, but we need to reduce the moisture content for this dish too prevent soggy toast. I try to get a really dense loaf to start with, so it will stand up to the broth. Slice the loaf into one inch thick slices, place it back into the bag it was sold in and leave it on the counter for a day.( I would caution against buying pre-sliced bread, as it is too thin for this recipe. )

We are going to use a steam-bake method so a 80/20 coal to unspent fuel works best.  You could make this in a cast iron Dutch oven but I’m going to use my 14” aluminum pit pan on the cooking surface. We want to get the heat inside the pan up to 350 degrees and hold it there for 20 to 30 minutes. I do this by monitor the progress and moving the pan around the grill to keep the action going.

Toasting the bread

While the portabella are simmering you can toast the French bread. Remember we want a really dry yet nicely toasted end result. When the bread is done rub garlic on it and drizzle with little Olive Oil. If you like a lot of garlic you can rub both sides. I personally like only a hint of garlic in Cappellone.


Take the mushrooms out of the pan and adjust the salt and pepper of the broth. Place the bread in a serving dish and top with cooked portabella’s. Pour the broth in the bottom of the serving platter. Drizzle with Olive Oil and serve. I like to reserve some of broth on the side for those who want more. Once the bread soaks up the broth, it tastes incredible when topped with a mushroom. We eat this as an appetizer, accompanied by a strong red wine. Today we paired it with a Renwood Zinfandel from Amador County, California. This dish is rustic with big earthy flavors it's best when served with a wine with similar characteristics. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wood Fired Clams and Oysters Rockefeller with Crusty Sour Dough Bread

I love clams that have been steamed open in a broth of butter, garlic, and reduced white wine. For me, this dish is all about mopping up that aromatic tide pool with a thick slice of crusty sour dough bread. The first time I had steamed clams was at Scomas on the wharf in San Francisco. My home town. Scomas is one of the last seafood restaurants on fisherman’s wharf that does not cater to tourist and the quality is excellent. My first memories of eating sour dough bread was with my father. He was the manager of a local grocery store and would grab a loaf off the shelf that was still warm and butter it. Now day’s, when I eat butter on my French bread, I like it room temperature with ice-cold butter. Like they do on the wharf in San Francisco.

There are so many clams to choose from, where do you start? No matter what type of clam you choose, make sure to ask your fishmonger to show you the harvest date that’s required to be on the bag the clams were transported in. Forget that the clams are still closed, that’s not necessarily a guarantee of freshness. Don’t buy any clams that are more than 2 weeks past the harvest date. I like to use the smallest clams I can find. I prefer to use Little Neck clams with this recipe. They are perfect for steaming because they are so tender.

Oysters are found all over the world and chances are you can find ones that came from a coastal area near you. Even if you live in the middle of the country, you should be able to get fresh oysters that have been harvested within our 2-week window.

And what about the crusty sour dough bread you ask? I certainly have my local favorites that I buy. Thankfully there has been a wave of artisan bread bakers popping up in recent years, making similar types of bread available in most grocery stores nationwide. But no matter what your preference is, fresh is best. In general, I try not to use any bread that was baked more than a day in advance.

Prepping the shellfish and ingredients

The clams and oysters should be kept in an ice chest or refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them. Wash the clams with cold water and a brush to remove any surface sand that might be on them. Shucking oysters is an art but it’s easy with a screwdriver and a hammer. If you happen to have an actual oyster knife, go for it. This is just one-way to shuck without one.) I lay the oyster on the bottom shell and hold it with a gloved hand. I then tap the screwdriver in with a hammer on the hinge between the top and bottom shell. After you open and separate the meat from the shells wash them by running them under water. The cup side or bottom shell is what we will use to hold the meat and Rockefeller mixture.

3 pounds of little neck clams
1 cup of good chardonnay white wine. (Remaining portion of wine can be “sampled” while you’re cooking, to ensure quality of course.)
1 cup of roasted stock
1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons of butter
½ of lemon
1 pinch of fresh ground pepper

Oysters Rockefeller
12 freshly shucked oysters
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup graded cheese. Use your favorite melting cheese. Parrano cheese works wonderfully in this recipe. 
½ cup graded pecorino Romano cheese. (You can use any good grading cheese.)
1 cup chopped spinach
1 pinch of fresh ground pepper, taste and salt to taste.
3 tablespoons of small diced red peppers, for the top
3 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley, for the top

Combine the melting cheese, mayo, spinach, pepper and salt together in a bowl. Dollop it onto the oysters. Top with pecorino Romano, red peppers and parsley and place on 12” X 12” foil squares. Oysters Rockefeller is traditionally cooked from the top with a broiler/salamander type oven. However, when done over the fire we will be cooking them from the bottom using high heat and a foil wrap. When wrapping the shells, be sure not to close the foil all the way, We want the steam to be able to escape while they’re cooking.

Prepping the fire
Since we are cooking in pans and foil you can use a fire that has a 50/50 coal to unspent fuel ratio. This type of fire takes a little while to get going before it’s ready to cook with, I’d say about one glass of wine or so. I like to start the fire directly under the cooking surface, so that there’s no loss of heat in the transfer.


The frying pan should be placed directly over the flames. The oysters go on first and need to be monitored by moving them in and out of the hot part of the cooking surface. Once the Rockefeller mixture starts bubbling, they’re done. You can keep them warm (by moving them to the edge the grill,) away from the fire.

To start the clams, add the cooking liquid and ingredients for the clam broth to the cook pan, along with the clams. Put a lid or some foil on the pan and steam until the clams open. About 10 minites should do the job. Discarded any un-opened clams before eating. If a clam does not open it means that it was dead before the cooking process and needs to be discarded.