It’s Quite a Grind

The Chorizo Grinding Challenge

Charcutepalooza challenge – bulk sausage. Nothing too complicated here – just meat that’s been passed through a grinders, seasoned and consequently cured. Basically this stuff is sausage meat sans the sausage casing.

WTF Makes is a Sausage?

According to McGee’s On Food and Cooking (which shall hence forth be known as THE BOOK on wtfamicooking), the word sausage has it’s root in the Latin word for “salt” (sal salis). Sausage is simply chopped meat and salt (plus seasonings) stuffed into some sort of casing. The salt plays two roles in sausage – the first being to preserve the meat and the second is that it dissolves one of proteins (myosin) which in turns binds the pieces together just like a glue. The sausages are almost always stuffed into some kind of casing. There are several types of sausages out there such as fresh sausages, emulsified sausages, fermented sausages, smoked  and dried sausages just to name a few.

Even though they are not stuffed into casing, bulk sausages are would fall under the category of fresh sausage. According to THE BOOK, because they are unfermented and uncooked, they are highly perishable and should be cooked within a day or two of being made/purchased.

Chorizo ready to be ground. It's important that the meat's real cold at this stage.

The Importance of Chilling Out

The texture of the chopped/ground meat is really important in sausage. If left to warm up, the fats and the proteins in the sausage could separate. This results in a very coarse and unpleasant texture. There are a few steps that ought to be taken to prevent this.

  1. Keep the meat cold. I tend to leave meat in the freezer for say 10-30minutes, depending on the quantity, before grinding.
  2. Keep the grinder or food processor that you’re using cold. I store mine in the freezer most of the time but if you’re short in freezer space, just leave it in there overnight before grinding large bulks of meat.
  3. Grind at a low speed. There’s a lot of friction in grinding which in turn produces heat.
  4. Keep storage bowls cold. I store the bowl for the ground meat in the freezer prior to the grind. Alternatively, you could put your storage bowl on top of another bowl of ice.
  5. When introducing liquids to your ground meat, use cold liquids. This will help maintain the low temperature of the meat.
Mixing the sausage post grind

How I Made Chorizo
Probably one of the more common bulk sausages in North America is the Mexican style chorizo. Seasoned with a variety of chili powders and various other seasonings, this is a rather unique sausage compared to most if you ask me. It takes on a smoky flavor not from actual smoking itself but from the dried chili peppers, in this case adobo.

As with most of my Charcutepalooza challenges, I adhered fairly closely to Polcyn and Ruhlman’s recipe in Charcuterie. First, I seasoned cubes pork shoulder with a variety of spices and let the mixture sit in the fridge for about half an hour to really chill. Following that, grind onto a cold bowl that was left in the freezer. (Note to self after ruining a Hanes V-neck Tee: do not wear white when grinding meat. It gets real messy to say the least.) Then mix in the liquid components of the sausage, in this case tequila and vinegar before mixing in a mixer for a minute. Taste (not raw but by cooking a small portion, silly) adjust seasonings, done.

  1. Chill meat
  2. Prep seasonings and then season meat. Chill some more. Let the seasonings sit for at least thirty minutes or preferably a few hours or up to a day.
  3. Grind meat.
  4. Add liquid components.
  5. Mix mixture till homogenous.
  6. Taste and adjust.
  7. Finish

You can use this formula for your breakfast sausages or whatever bulk sausage you can think of. You can use – food processor if you don’t have a grinder but the texture will vary a little. Just make sure that the food processor is really cold by leaving it in the freezer overnight. Alternatively, you could use pre-ground meat but where’s the fun in that?

Chorizo Frittata

Chorizo and eggs go together as well as pizza and beer, steak and beer, and even brats and beer. (I guess you now know where my priorities really lie.) You could serve them with over-easy eggs, in scrambled eggs or even an omelet. One of my favorite applications, however, is a frittata, which is basically a thick baked omelet. It’s great for so many reasons.

  • It’s awesome for unloading leftovers.
  • It’s not as finicky and requires less attention than an omelet but has similar eggy goodness.
  • It’s great when making something egg based for a large group of people. I made this for about 20 people.
  • It goes great with bread.
  • It’s delicious.
Goes great with home-made bread

How I do It
The main idea is to par cook your ingredients, mix them up with beaten eggs. Be creative and use whatever is in season or any leftovers the fridge. Spinach, green onions and even tomatoes can be good additions. Herbs such as basil, tarragon and thyme would do great too. You can’t really mess this up.

Ingredients (for 4-6 people):

8oz             chorizo

1/2              whole onion

8oz             mushrooms

1 /2             red pepper

1 dozen     eggs

pinches    salt

¼ cup       grated cheese

  1. Put a pan on med-hi and pan fry the chorizo till brown.
  2. Sauté onions on a med heat pan with a pinch of salt till half-way soften about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and peppers and soften too, another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Beat eggs and add a pinch of salt.
  4. Spray/oil the inside of a casserole dish or oven safe pan. Layer in the sautéed vegetables and chorizo and pour in the beaten eggs. Mix it up a little to distribute the mixture evenly. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top.
  5. Bake in a 350F oven till set, about 20minutes.You can test this by using a skewer and poking the center of the frittata and it should come up somewhat clean. You’ll want to remove the frittata when it’s very slightly underdone as it will carry over cooking.
  6. Let rest for 5 minutes, cut and serve with bread.
Let it rest before you cut into it... if you can resist.

Fun fact: this post was largely written standing up in the Moscow airport while waiting for a connecting flight.


Back At It Again – Canadian Bacon

April’s Charcutepalooza challenge was hot smoking pork loin or pork shoulder, to make Canadian bacon or taso ham. I went with Canadian bacon.

WTF is Canadian bacon?

Also known as back bacon, it’s bacon made from center-cut boneless pork loin. What we usually get at grocery stores is streaky bacon, made from pork belly. The curing process of both bacons is generally rather similar. First off, the meat is cured in a salt and spice mixture or a brine for a few days. The meat is then rinsed off, left to dry a little and then smoked.

WTF is Hot Smoking?

Generally, there are three kinds of smoking and they are mainly differentiated by the temperature. This is what I picked up in reading up from books and the Internet (especially Wikipedia).

My Old Smokey electric smoker. Easy, convenient and cheap off craigslist

Cold smoking occurs below 100F. It imparts flavor but doesn’t cook the food.

Hot smoking occurs between 165-185F. It cooks the food (duh).

Smoke roasting is pretty much like roasting but with smoke. It can go in access of 250F

And of course, we can vary the characteristic of the smoke with not just the temperature but also the type of wood being used.

Making Canadian Bacon

The process, as mentioned, involved salting, drying and smoking.

I was actually a little excited for this project because after months of anticipation, a certain grocery storejust opened up in my neighborhood.

I would give a review of Revival Market but so much has already been done and I probably wouldn’t do it any justice with my words. All I can say is that if you’re in Houston, just go.

This project would mark my first purchase from the store, and what more appropriate an item than some pork.

Pork loin all ready to be smoked

Now back to the making of the bacon. As with my Charcuterie projects so far, I adapted the recipe from Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie. I brined the pork loin for 3 days. Nothing new here since I’ve talked about brining before. Then I dried it in my fridge for a day. Then I smoked it with apple wood in my electric smoker. Sounds easy? Good, because it is.

WTF do you do with Canadian Bacon

Eggs Benedict from 'scratch'

I guess the most common application would be Eggs Benedict. It’s just a combination of things you know will go well together – English muffins, poached eggs, Canadian bacon, and Hollandaise sauce. A basic recipe and video can be found on the Culinary Institute of America’s website here.

What’s cool about Eggs Benedict is it’s fairly simple to make. Plus it looks elegant and impressive. At the same time, with so many components, going through the exercise of making one can be a great way to work on technique –making a dough, poaching an egg and making a hollandaise sauce.

Oh by the way, here’s a tip when poaching eggs to make them look good without flyaway whites – drain the thinner whites off. You could do that with a slotted spoon or a strainer.

Poached duck eggs. The egg on the left was cracked into the poaching liquid. The egg on the right was first strained to get rid of the looser whites (although I went a little overboard this time around)

Of course, eggs Benedict isn’t the only application for Canadian bacon. You could treat it like regular bacon in an English breakfast, use it in a fried rice, or even a pizza.

And to show you the versatility of Canadian Bacon, here’s one thing I did. I used it in laksa. Wait, what?

(Laksa is one of my favorite dishes from Singapore. It’s noodles in a thick and spicy coconut broth. )

Simply poach the Canadian bacon and add on top as a garnish.  Too much of a good thing? Nah, not too much yet.

Laksa with... Canadian Bacon