Monthly Archives: June 2013

Corned Beef: Homemade Charcuterie Vol. 1

I’m not usually one to go on about where my ingredients come from, I prefer to just assume you’re getting the best you can afford and go from there. This, however, requires some backstory: Annually, my father will raise a cow (maybe a pig or two) to have slaughtered and stock up the big freezer with meat. Generally my sister and I get a cut of the haul, but since my wife and I just spent 3 years in Iowa City, IA this time the cut came with conditions, “Well, whenever you move back to The South, there’s a quarter of a cow with your name it.” As if we didn’t want to get home enough already. Luckily, The Missus landed a gig at University of Georgia in Athens.

We don’t have enough freezer space to accommodate that much meat, so we’re getting it in batches. The folks will be coming down this weekend for the holiday and all we have left of the last batch is a wee brisket and the ox tail (which we’re saving for the fall and ox tail stew season.) Time to use up that brisket and make room for some flank steak. And time to do something I’ve always wanted to do:

Corned Beef:

-1 brisket (mine is 2 lbs.)

-2 Tablespoons sugar

-2 Tablespoons pickling salt (any fine grain salt will do, as long as it’s not iodized)

-2 teaspoons black peppercorn

-2 teaspoons allspice berries

-2 teaspoon juniper berries


Combine all your dry ingredients and blend them up good.

Place your brisket in a non-reactive dish, and coat with the dry mixture. Make sure to cover the whole thing.


Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, flip the brisket once or twice a day for 1 week.


Next week we’ll take a look at it and I’ll have a Potato Bread recipe that I’ve been having luck with lately.


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Chicken and Corn Risotto

Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought on homemdade stock. First, we have the ‘make a giant batch and freeze it’ camp; then we have the ‘make a little bit when you want to’ camp. I’m in the second camp. That said, I’m not a big stock maker. I like my Better Than Bouillon. The major exception here is when there has recently been roast chicken. Chuck them bones in a pot with a quarter of an onion, some garlic cloves, spices (rosemary, thyme, sage, black pepper) and any good veg scraps you happen to have on hand (in this case corn cobs.) Cover with water and let simmer for a few hours and there you go. Delicious stock and a delicious smelling house. If it’s is a bit weak, you can always reduce the stock a little to concentrate the flavor. Remember not to add any salt until after you’ve reduced it. Otherwise just enough salt can turn into way too much. Now that that’s out of the way let’s make some risotto!


-1 1/2 cup short grain rice (Arborio is usually what Americans use although some prefer Carnaroli, which makes a nicer sauce but is more expensive and the rice stays firmer)

-4 1/2 to 5 cups broth (homemade or not)

-1/2 large onion, diced

-3 ears of fresh corn kernels (cobs in the stock)

-bits of chicken picked off the carcass

-2-3 Tablespoons oil

First things first, don’t rinse the rice. The reason I mention this is that many rice dishes want you pre-rinse. This will remove the starch which coats your rice, which is all well and good when you want your rice fluffy but is the exact opposite of what you want for risotto. The starch is what makes the sauce.  No rinsing.

Keep the stock in a small pot over a low flame to keep warm. If it gets too hot it will evaporate, so keep an eye on it.


Step one is to sweat down your onions. To do this, combine the oil and onions in a large pot (I prefer my 6 quart dutch oven) set on a medium-low heat and stir. The goal is to get the onions translucent without any browning, so keep the heat low and stir often.


Once you’ve accomplished this task (good job), add the rice and corn. What we’re concerned with here is the rice, so don’t worry about the corn. Stir the rice so it’s mixed in evenly and keep stirring so it toasts at the same rate. First it will go kind of clear, that’s good. When it starts to brown and smell a little nutty, it’s ready. Add the first cup of water. This will absorb pretty quickly but don’t add more that one cup at a time. Stir often and add each cup as soon as the liquid from the last one is soaked in. Allegedly, you need 3 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of rice. This is a lie. Err on the side of having too much liquid. Be patient, stir often, add the stock slowly. After adding the last of the stock, give it a taste, it will probably need salt and maybe some more spice. A little rosemary wouldn’t hurt in this recipe, and I find corn and black pepper go together very well. Since the chicken is already fully cooked, just stir that in at the end.

You’ll know it’s ready when the sauce is creamy and the rice is al dente, soft but not too soft. I like the word “toothsome”.

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Soft Tofu: A Soybean Beginners Manual Vol. 3

This week’s post is going to be a shorter one since I’m polishing up and sending out my book proposal to a few places. And for those of you worried that I won’t be posting any meat recipes, I’ve got a pork rillettes recipe I’ll be posting in the next couple of weeks.

Soft Tofu

-1 cup dried soybeans (if you don’t have an Asian grocery store, you can usually find them at Earth Fare)

-4 cups water, plus more for rinsing and soaking

-2 teaspoons epsom salts, dissolved in 1/2 cup water (for those of you uneasy about the idea of putting epsom salts in food, remember it is the traditional coagulant, epsom salts is just the new name for it)

So you don’t have to backtrack through two older posts, I’ll start at the beginning.

Rinse 1 cup of dried soybeans well, making sure to remove any discolored, shriveled up or otherwise funky beans. Soak beans in a few cups of water overnight.

The next day, with the beans still in water, rub them around in your hands. This will loosen some of the skins and make the water cloudy. Drain off the water and any skins that are floating. Repeat this process until the water remains clear. Drain one last time and replace with 4 cups of  fresh water.


Blend the beans in water really well, until the texture of sand. Remove any foam that forms at the surface, it will make your tofu bitter. I like my immersion blender for this step since I can use it right in the pot, but a counter top blender will work just as well.

Place the bean puree in a pot on medium heat, stir often. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low and put a lid on it. Set your timer for 15 minutes, but come back every few minutes and stir the beans to prevent sticking.

After 15 minutes the beans should smell sweet and less beany. If not, give them another 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a cheese cloth or butter muslin placed in a colander over a smaller pot. Let sit until cool enough to handle, then squeeze the last of the soymilk out. The pulp left over is called okara and has many uses.

Place your smaller pot of soymilk on a medium heat until almost boiling. Turn off heat and gently swirl in the epsom salts dissolved in water. Put a lid on the pot and let sit for 15 minutes.


By then you should see seperation of solids from liquid, although it won’t be as distinct as when you’re making firm tofu. Pour the contents into a cloth in a strainer like last time, except this time place the cloth full of tofu into a tofu press. Don’t worry, if you don’t have a tofu press you can make your own. I used two plastic containers that raisins came in. Poke some holes in the bottom one, place the tofu in it, place the second one on top and add a jar with some water for weight. Brilliant, I know.

Wait about 15 minutes and you should have a just solid block of soft tofu. If you want to firm it up a little more, leave it in the press longer.


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Leftover Cake Liqueur

I’ve had this post written and sitting on the back burner for a while now, but I’m sending my book proposal to a publisher next week so I thought it apropo to ‘dip into storage’.

Say you only have one slice of cake (any kind will do) but you want to share it with 4 or 5 people and not have to worry about who’s getting the biggest single bite of cake. What’s a fella to do?


Mix it with booze of course! The example above is a German Chocolate Cake that my wife made for my birthday but you could do this with most any dessert. So far I’ve made this with a few different cakes and tiramisu, but I would absolutely try it with a slice of pie or some Ben and Jerry’s. I’ll make some Chunky Monkey Liqueur and get back to you.

You will need:

-1 slice of cake (whatever a serving is for the cake in question)

-1/2 cup of good vodka (I like Tito’s). #freevodkaplease


Put the cake and vodka into your blender or a mixing bowl if you’re using an immersion blender. Blend it for 30 seconds to a minute, until it’s really smooth.


If you’re using a blender, pour the contents into a new container. If you used and immersion blender, you can leave it in the same bowl. Now let it hang out and steep at least four hours. I call this the “let everybody get to know each other” step.

Next, strain through a double layer of cheese cloth or butter muslin if you have any. This also might take a while, although it will go faster if you hang it. When it’s almost stopped dripping, give the cheese cloth a good squeeze to get the last of the liquid out.


If it’s perfect, awesome. More likely it will be either 1) too thick and require more booze or 2) it’s too boozy and require some heavy cream (you need something with a high fat content, regular milk might break.) You can also use egg yolks, the alcohol will kill off any salmonella.

Serve in little cordial glasses or whatever you have. Depending on what your dessert was (tiramisu or something super creamy) you may be able to serve this in coffee, but test a bit before you present it in case it breaks.

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Roasted Soybeans and Firm Tofu: A Soybean Beginners Manual Vol. 2

For this portion of my series about soybeans, start by refering back to Volume 1. The rinsing and soaking process is the same for each recipe and for firm tofu the recipe is the same until you strain the milk from the cooked, ground beans.

Roasted Soybeans

-1 cup dried soybeans

-lots of water for rinsing and soaking

-oil, salt, spices to taste

First of all you’re going torinse and soak the beans overnight. Rinse them again in the morning and pour them into a colander to dry for a little while.

Preheat your oven to 350 F and spread them around on a cookie sheet. Lately I’ve been using one from Chicago Metallic and I’ve been very pleased with it.


Place the sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Make sure to shimmy the pan every five minutes or the beans will stick. Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes. There are a lot of factors determining how long it will actually take, but you want them toasty looking, not to dark. If you’re not sure if they are done, eat one. We want crispy, not squishy. When they are crispy and golden, toss in bowl with a wee splash (one teaspoon) olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Try other spices and salts, too. I tossed these bad boys in some Old Bay. It’s alright. Maybe Lawry’s next time.


Firm Tofu:

-1 cup soybeans

-4 cups water, plus more for rinsing and soaking

-2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Follow the instructions on soymilk from my previous post until you reach the point that you’ve seperated the okara from the soymilk. You’re not going to have anywhere near the quart of liquid you started with, this is normal.

Replace the milk into a pot and let it almost come to a boil over medium heat. When you start to see little bubbles around the edge of your pan swirl in the lemon juice in big, wide strokes.

Remove from heat, put a lid on it and wait 10 minutes. By then you should see a clear seperation of solid from liquid. Ideally you will have as few soy curds as possible, if you’re lucky you’ll have one big one. If seperation has not yet occured, add 1 more Tablespoon lemon juice and wait 5 more minutes.


Strain the curds in the same manner as earlier (you can re-use your cheese cloth, but make sure to rinse it first) and give them a quick, gentle rinse to remove the lemon flavor.

Leaving the solids in the fabric, fold into a rough square and place on a cookie sheet that is propped up at an angle. Use a large, flat bottomed item to press the tofu block for about 45 minutes. I like my Dutch oven for this. The resulting tofu should weigh about a quarter of a pound and be firm enough that you can cut it into cubes or strips, or crumble it up onto a salad.

Taste of homemade tofu is something divine, so don’t miss this opportunity to just have some on it’s own, or sprinked with a little tamari.


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