Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza - A month of brining

March has been another successful Charcutepalooza party.  This month we were challenged to get down and dirty with salt...and water...and spices.  That's right, we were brining.  This month, I did not have any earth shattering revelations regarding my inner psyche and why I'm here and what I should be doing with my life.  I'm too darned busy and tired from all the busyness to have any revelations.  Thank goodness, I need a break from revelations.

I have to say, I had a great time this month brining things.  Pretty much, if it didn't move, it got brined!  (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight).  Not only did I brine a lot, everything I brined came out great.  No, really, I mean it!  No recipe failures this month.  Unbelievable!  There was one big failure this month...photos.  It's so sad.  I made so many great things and just don't have the photos to show all of their wonderfulness.  It's that late night, no light issue.  But, for next month I'm much more hopeful, with the time change giving us some more daylight.

Here's what I made this month.  I started with sauerkraut (easy, peasey...chop up cabbage...make brine...put in brine...put in closet...let it do it's thing for two weeks).  (If you want the actual recipe on how you too can make your own sauerkraut...get Ruhlman's book.)  I then tackled corned beef.  I ended the show with brined pork chops.  Ultimately, we had multiple meals from each of these ventures.

Out of the oven...waiting to be sliced.

Sliced...waiting to be devoured.
The corned beef was ready to cook first.  I had purchased a five pound brisket from my butcher, knowing that I would have company when I cooked the corned beef.  On Oscar day, the brisket was done corning (which took five days), and ready for roasting.  Alas, our company was not able to make it, so the three of us tackled the corned beef by ourselves.  I'm proud to report that we did not eat the whole thing in one sitting.  In fact, we had enough left for corned beef hash the next day and Reuben sandwiches a few weeks later (I froze half of the cooked roast).  

While the corned beef was roasting, the house smelled divine, as only a corned beef can make a house smell.  And, much to my surprise and delight, it tasted just like corned beef!  I had gone to the extra effort of getting all my own individual pickling spices (rather than buying a jar of pickling spices) and was so glad that I did.  Everything was extra fresh and aromatic and really made the corned beef special.

On the pannini press...can't wait for that first bite

Reuben Sandwich with homemade sauerkraut and Russian dressing
The Reuben Sandwiches were a perfect weeknight dinner. Quick to make (now that the kraut and corned beef had come out of purgatory and were just waiting to be eaten), and easy to eat!  I decided to make my own Russian dressing (mayo, ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire and salt & pepper) after looking at the unpronounceable ingredients on the label on the store dressing bottle.  I've pretty much avoided all bottled dressings for quite some time, as whipping up my own balsamic and oil concoction is so easy.  I figured Russian dressing couldn't be too hard, and I was right.

I served the sauerkraut with the brined pork chops at a birthday dinner for my friend.  For the sauerkraut, I found a great recipe at Simply Recipes for Sauerkraut with Bacon and Apples.  I, of course, used some of my home-cured bacon from February's challenge (boy, having 14 lbs of bacon sure has come in handy!)  This sauerkraut recipe was completely delicious (I left out the caraway seeds as St James and I don't like them) and perfect with the brined pork chops.

Chops brining

For the brined chops, I followed the recipe in Ruhlman's book and brined them for about 5 hours as they were very thick (almost 3 inches).  I was amazed with the first bite as the essence of sage and brown sugar (from the brine) married perfectly with the pork.  I wasn't sure that the flavors of the brine were going to come through, but each bite of chop had the subtle hints from the brine.  Just perfect!  The only shot I got of the chops was in the brine...doesn't do them justice at all!!

All in all,  a very successful Charcutepalooza month, just wish I had more photos of the finished products.  You'll just have to trust me that everything looked just as good as it tasted!


Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Well and no photos also means you were busy enjoying the fruits of your labour too! We forgive you! Everything does sound wonderful!

Cher said...

I am most impressed! Bravo. When do you sleep???

Betsy said...

Your words make up for the lack of photos. Everything sounds mouthwatering. We stuck with the corned beef with St Paddy's day this week and all. Cooked it sous vide. Yum! So many leftovers. I'm inspired by your panini. I'm not a big fan of sauerkraut but can do it with coleslaw. I think they call that a Rachel.

Anne Marie said...

I love it: "To my delight, it tasted just like corned beef!" It looks wonderful, and just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Anonymous said...

I love the panini! Yum!

S. said...

I agree... that panini looks amazing!