Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sage, Spicy, Sweet

About half a year ago, I decided it would be much cheaper if we purchased our meat in large quantities once a year and divided it up for storage in our large freezer. Many butchers will cut your meat to order, i.e., buy a pork loin and you can get two roasts and two dozen chops. The cost is minimal compared to buying these items individually. It was around this time that I had purchased a pork shoulder, and my husband had given me a meat grinder for Christmas, so it was only natural for me to make sausage. I had used the other half of the shoulder to make this fantastic braised pork shoulder with fennel, and as the remaining half sat in the freezer, I began fantasizing about what I should do with it. I decided it should be sausage. At the incredible prices you pay for sausage, and the amount of sausage I use, I figured I would save some money. I told my plan to my husband (it seems like I always have plans) and began thinking about the types of sausage I would make.
A few weeks later, I still hadn't made the sausage, and we were in a hotel watching TV (we don't have cable...for some strange reason my husband thinks I would spend too my time watching the Food Network...hmmmm) so, I was watching Emeril's show, and guess what he was making...sausage! I was so excited! I decided to try his recipe, for Mild Italian Sausage. I also made sage, which I use when I make stuffing, and hot, which is a favorite for biscuits and gravy. They were amazing and delicious! I still can't believe I made them and they turned out that good. And it was so incredibly easy!
For grinding the meat, you can use a KitchenAid attachment, which you can also use to grind your own hamburger mixes (that way you know exactly what's in there), or a counter top grinder. If you have neither, you can cut the meat by hand. It is very tedious, and will not be as uniform as a grinder.

Each of these recipes makes three pounds. Be sure you have the right amount when you start, and be sure to test each type you make by frying it up and tasting it. Salt is very important here as it brings the flavors together.
Mild Italian Sausage Recipe
(note: ground anise seeds are the same as fennel seeds. You can use a mortar and pestle to grind the fennel seeds for the ground anise the recipe calls for. To toast seeds, just put them in a pan on the stove top on medium low heat, stirring constantly, until you smell them.)

For the sage sausage, I used a Tablespoon each of salt and pepper, and simply added a Tablespoon of powdered sage and 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh sage.

For the hot sausage, I used a Tablespoon each of salt and pepper, 2 teaspoons cayenne, 2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons chipotle powder (you can find it at World Market), 2 teaspoons paprika, and 2 teaspoons chili powder. Taste the sausage and adjust the seasonings. I added more, because we like ours very hot.

I divided the sausage into 1-lb portions and wrapped them in plastic wrap, then labeled them for storage in the freezer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Apple a Day

Now that fall is here, and apples are in season, are you eating your apple a day? Well, there are a few ways you can do that, and one of them is this delicious caramel apple cake. The day I saw the recipe in a magazine, I decided I would make it, first chance I got. My husband's birthday is in October, so when I was planning his birthday dinner, I asked if he would like to try it. He was game.
 I made the recipe almost exactly the way it said to, but I didn't have a three-inch cake pan (and I was a bit short on time) so I turned them into muffins instead of a whole cake. I wouldn't make their caramel sauce (much too tedious and its not that good...) I would make this one instead. The addition of orange juice to the batter is great, and the use of baking powder and baking soda makes these muffins puff up very nicely.
The jist of the dessert goes like this: lay some apple pieces in the bottom of each muffin cup, pour in cake batter. While its baking, make the sauce. Pop out muffins, pour sauce on. This is my condensed version. Their version takes 2 1/2 hours, mine, about 30 minutes.

You decide.

Caramel Apple Muffins

1 Recipe Caramel Sauce

For the batter

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
4 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease muffin pan.
Combine all cake batter ingredients, except for the apples, in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides. Add apples and fold in.
Divide batter between muffin pans. Bake for 15-25 minutes. Test for doneness.
Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce.
Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes. Turn out onto plates or serving platter. Top each muffin with a ladle full of caramel sauce.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Green Enchiladas

Quite often, at a potluck at church, you can find a dish or two of green enchiladas.
I generally avoid green-sauced things, mostly because I discovered as a teenager they didn't like me. My mom always made red enchiladas, a favorite dish around our house that consisted corn tortillas filled with shredded, canned chicken and processed cheese. If we were lucky there were black olives on top and sour cream....mmm just thinking about it makes me miss mom's enchiladas. But that's not why we are here today.
I tried some enchiladas a few years back at a church potluck that blew my socks off. Now, I really, really like Mexican food (by now you have probably figured out that I really, really like any food), but I have a bone to pick with the Senoritas that make enchiladas. Many times the meat is bland. And I know why. They boil it, add the teeniest bit of salt and pepper and throw it in a tortilla and rely on the sauce on the top to deliver the flavor. I advocate highly seasoned food. I want every bite to be filled with flavor and make me so desirous of my next bite I don't chew my food properly. That is how these enchiladas were. After I stuffed my face with them, I hurried back to the line to see if there were any more. No luck. Others must have discovered this well-kept secret. After asking around a bit, I discovered who made them. One of the senior Spanish ladies, probably the sweetest person I know. After drowning her in flattery for about five full minutes, I asked her if she would share her recipe. It was sooooo easy I couldn't believe it! I made them that week, and my husband was pretty much in shock. I shared them with my family, next, and they have become quite a hit around here. I actually was planning on making them tomorrow or the next day when someone asked me for the recipe. Now, there are two ways you can go about making this, and I highly recommend making extra sauce and freezing it for the next time you make enchiladas. This lady who makes them also said you can freeze the whole pan and just pop it into the oven. They never last that long around here.... You can use fresh tomatillos when they are in season and just puree them in a blender or food processor, or you can just buy the can.
So here it is.

For the Sauce
2 cans green enchilada sauce (the large ones)
2-3 lbs. tomatillos, peeled, washed and pureed
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 of a medium onion, finely chopped
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
2 teaspoons cumin

For the Chicken
2 or 3 fresh or frozen chicken breasts, boiled until cooked and shredded
salt and pepper to taste
Enchilada Sauce

For the Tortillas
1/2 lb jack cheese
24 medium size corn tortillas
Enchilada Sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Prepare the sauce. Combine all listed sauce ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning as necessary. In the meantime, boil and shred the chicken, and add about each of salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350.
To make the enchiladas, heat vegetable oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Dunk tortillas in the enchilada sauce, then fry them for a few seconds on each side. Place in a prepared baking dish. Add chicken and roll up the tortilla. Repeat until the ingredients are gone.
Add more sauce to the edges of the rolled shells, and sprinkle jack cheese on top. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted.
Top with sour cream if desired, and serve!

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