Preserved Esrog

wpid-wp-1424198931493.jpeg

wpid-wp-1424198931493.jpeg

People of the world, I am still alive! Let’s make preserved esrogim!

So, what’s a preserved esrog? Well, it’s like a preserved lemon, only with another citrus, namely – an esrog, aka – a citron. What’s preserved lemon you ask?? Well, the general gist of a preserved lemon is: you take a bunch of lemons, cut them up (whether in pieces, or only partially seems to be up for debate), bury it in salt, watch as the lemon juices and salt form a sort of brine, and voila, you have “preserved lemons,” this tart (possibly sweet, if sugar is added also), salty, briny thingy, that can be used in many sort of savory applications. And me thinks – hey why not preserve some esrog, so that’s what I did….The end…Good night everyone!

Ha! Sorry to say, but 2015 is not the year I work on my verbal diarrhea…moving-right-along.

First off, you might be asking yourself, nossi does realize that sukkos was like 5 months ago right? Surely even he realizes that even if I did decide to save my esrog, that by this time it would be, how you say, unusable? 

Well Mr Italics-pants, I do know all that, but you see I suffer from this thing called procrastination. It’s crippling; plus work, and stuff, so like whatever man. Just bookmark this post, and let’s get back to it sukkos time, ok?? Geez, do I have to do everything around here?? I would even say that I’ll remind you come next sukkos, so you save your esrog…but you and I know both know by now, that’s not gonna happen, because, well, see above…

Ok, so moving along, here’s an amazing fun fact for you brave souls still reading – the esrog/citron is one of the 3 original citrus fruits (the other 2 being mandarins, and the pomello…all other citrus fruits are some sort of hybridized/cultivated mutant).

So preserved esrog (or lemons, if you for some odd reason don’t have esrogim sitting around) as I said earlier is this sort of condiment/spice that is used to add a tart, saline, citrusy flavor to a dish, most notably it goes well with chicken.

As I mentioned above, the traditional way to preserve lemons is to bury cut up lemons in salt, which draws the moisture out of the lemon, and then salt and moisture mix, forming this brine solution.

Now this process is similar to any preservation technique, be it pickles (such as spicy pickled okra), or corned beef, the idea behind it all is to kill off bad bacteria, so good bacteria can take over and do it’s thing (enhance flavor/texture/shelf life…). We talked about the difference between “fermenting” and “pickling” back in the post on okra, so if you want we’ll all wait for you to catch up…go on…

The traditional approach to preserving lemons is more of a fermentation process, where just salt is added, which takes longer, and relies a little more on proper proportions (ratio of salt:water), but will have a more fermented taste (this process is sometimes referred to as “lacto-fermented”), but I decided to try and do a quick “refrigerator pickle” for the esrogim to preserve them. This process (which again is in the okra post) basically relies on vinegar to do the majority of the leg work in reducing bad bacteria, and kinda allows the good bacteria to flourish.

I cut up the esrogim, and discarded the interior (the pulp), and was left with the peel and rind. Now in most citrus fruits, the rind is too bitter, and we generally don’t want it, but in esrogim, it’s really the only useful part, but obviously can’t be eaten raw.

To add flavor I decided to take my dried up hadassim leaves (myrtle branch, also used on sukkos), along with salt and suger (about 1 tablespoon each), and added hot water to dissolve salt/suger, and to re-hydrate the hadassim. Then I added the vinegar, and submerged it all, and placed it in the fridge. The final proportion of vinegar:water should be about 50:50 or even 60:40.

Now I’ve never actually tried this with lemons, and never really made preserved lemons, I don’t see why wouldn’t work…but I ain’t no rocket surgeon, so let me know how it goes!

So now that you read all through that, you probably want to know what I did with it, right?

wpid-wp-1424198923956.jpeg

I decided since preserved lemon apparently goes well with chicken, me thinks why not try this with chicken, I’m sort of a genius like that. Anyway, I threw some of the preserved esrog, along with shallots, onions, garlic, and home made chili paste (ie – s’chug), which shocker of all shockers, I made way back in the summer (with a litany of beautiful hot peppers from this CSA I was a part of) that I never posted…it’s kinda my MO, so deal with it!

I blended it all together

wpid-wp-1424198921033.jpeg

and slathered it all over a chicken that I had spatch-cocked (best food word ever…it basically means to butterfly a chicken, by removing the backbone, and opening it up like a book..).

wpid-wp-1424198933577.jpeg wpid-wp-1424198923911.jpeg

Then I roasted the whole shebangbang, and to prevent the breast from overcooking, which it is wont to do, I covered the breast part with silver foil for the first hour or so

wpid-wp-1424198923233.jpeg

 

then I uncovered the breast, and cranked the oven up to about 450-500 for another 25-30 minutes to crisp the skin

wpid-wp-1424198934220.jpeg

That’s it boychick’ll…see you in 2016!

Matzah Balls

DSC_0715

All right, so it’s that time of the month when I come out of hiding to contribute to the kosher food blogging world, in this month’s version of the Kosher Connection- Link up. If you’re new to the program, every month there’s a theme, and a bunch of reputable food bloggers, and myself, get together to give their version of that theme. This month’s theme is “Get well Gil.” For the uninitiated, Gil Marks is one of the foremost experts on kosher food, and it’s long history. In fact he even wrote a freaking encyclopedia on it! I happen to love the book, and it only weighs in at a whopping 650ish pages, so you know, it’s typical light reading fare. But in all honesty, the book is incredible, and it literally covers everything imaginable related to kosher food, from Adafina to Zwetschgenkuchen (“a cross between a cake and tart made with Italian prune plums”), I highly recommend taking a gander.

Anyway, I was trying to think what would be an appropriate recipe, and it dawned on me – Matzah Balls! Think about it – it’s the ultimate healing food, plus, it’s one of those foods that epitomizes Jewish cooking (sorry S’fardim, I guess you don’t count!…I joke, next time I’ll make Jachnun, or something scary sounding like that). Onward!

Quoting Gil in the Encyclopedia:

“..By the 12th century, the concept of dumplings, originally made from bread, had spread from Italy to Bohemia, where it was called knodel (knot). From there, the name traveled with variations in pronunciation, to southern Germany, Austria, and France. The term also traveled eastward to the Slavic regions. The most widespread Ashkenazic name for dumpling became knaidel/kneydl, which is better know by the plural knaidlach/kneydlakh

As the medieval period waned, flour began to replace bread as the base…During the 8 days of Passover…Germans discovered that they could substitute matza for the bread or flour, creating the most widely known type..matzah knaidel

It was only in the early 20th century, after Manischewitz introduced packaged matza meal, that this dumpling achieved mass popularization and it’s current status as an iconic Jewish food.

Matza balls consist of only a few ingredients – matza meal, eggs, a little far, a liquid, salt, and pepper. Using matza meal in place of flour, and adding eggs resulsts in a lighter dumpling. Adding fat…produces a more flavorful dumplings…

Now, ever since our post on chicken stock, I’m sure that like me, you also have some chicken shmaltz lying around in the fridge (or maybe some duck fat??), and seriously, what better way than to incorporate it into some matzah meal, with some of that stock…it’s like the circle of life, man. First you make chicken, then with the leftover bones and scraps, you make stock. With that stock you get the base of your chicken soup, and you also have shmaltz to make knaydlach….it’s so deep man.

DSC_0689

I actually used Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for this (I like that everything is by weight…because, you know… a scale…I’m like a broken record over here…), and I took some matzah, and added it to a food processor to pulverize.

DSC_0691

To that I added, the remaining dry ingredients: baking powder, some fresh rosemary (which I had lying around, but you can use whatever you see fit), salt, and black pepper.

DSC_0693

DSC_0692

I melted some fresh chicken fat (you can use vegetable oil if you’re a lightweight), added it to 4 eggs and 1/4 cup of fresh chicken stock, and mixed it all together.

DSC_0687DSC_0688

Then I mixed together, the dry and wet ingredients, and after thoroughly combined, I let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, to fully hydrate.

DSC_0696

 

DSC_0700

Before you’re ready to go, bring a pot of salted water to a simmer.

Then I rolled it up into golf-ish sized balls (remember, they’re going to grow, so smaller than you expect….I make this mistake, every time mind you).

Dump the kneydels into the salted water, and cook until they’re nice and fluffy,  about 20-30 minutes.

DSC_0719

And there you have it…there might be some of you out there (ahem – Phoenix Fresser..) why not just make this out of a box mix?? Well I’m going to preempt that by saying, Hashem gets angry when you use a box mix (especially duncan hines…but that’s another post).

Anyway, we here at the Kosher Gastronome Headquarters would like to wish a full and speedy recovery to Gil (Yitzchak Simcha ben Baila).

As always with the Kosher Link Ups, click on the funny frog guy below to see what the other peoples are doing.

Matzah Balls:

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares of matzo (ie –  1 cup/140 grams matzo meal), well pulverized in a food processor
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup/60 grams schmaltz, melted (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon chopped rosemary (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until they are all thoroughly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. With damp hands, form the matzo mixture into 8 golf ball-sized orbs (they will double in size).
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer
  4. Drop in balls, and cook for 20-30 minutes.

 

Boneless Chicken rollups with Porter reduction

Chicken_raw_tied

So apparently there are some people who mistakenly think that white meat is better than dark meat. Craziness right? Now don’t get me wrong, white meat that’s properly cooked, and fresh is awesome, and bad chicken is bad chicken no matter what color…however that being said, all things being equal, dark meat is way better. Now there are some that claim dark meat is annoying because it comes with bones, and these people, being the lazy people they are, don’t want to have to go through the trials and tribulations of having to work when they eat, so to these weird people, any sort of impediment in their course to stuffing said food down their gullets in one fluid motion is considered bad, so ergo, bone-in chicken is bad. I know what you’re thinking, who is crazy enough to think this, right?? Well I’m not going to name names (ahem – Dr Shmalexman) but suffice it to say, people like this do exist. Where am I going with this diatribe? Well what if we could take dark meat and remove the bone so even those lazy people out there can enjoy good chicken. I know what you’re thinking, why not just buy boneless dark meat, right? Well the only answer I have is, have you seen how much more they charge you for removing the bone? Just do it yourself, and it’s really not that hard. Onward!

So butchery is a great way to take out some aggression, and I highly recommend cutting down a whole chicken at least once, just to get a feel for it (plus, the chicken always comes out neater, and another benefit is you can make chicken galantine, which you should definitely do), anyway, if you decide not to butcher a whole chicken, go grab some chicken legs, and lets start cutting. First you’re going to want to cut the drumstick from the thigh, and the easiest way to do that is to take the bottom, and squeeze the leg and thigh together and start cutting down, and you should be able to wriggle your knife in between the two pieces, and cut right through.

DSC_6041 DSC_6043 DSC_6044

Once you have the leg, you can slice down directly over the bone to open it up, and then slide your knife under the bone but on top of the meat, to completely separate the meat from the bone. Then kind of do the same thing with the thigh, but I’m sorry, because I don’t have any good pictures, but basically cut along the bone, and then slide the knife underneath to cut meat away, and where the two bones meet you’ll need to cut away, whatever,you’ll figure it out, right? Gravy sauce.

DSC_6045DSC_6046

Allright, so now that you have your cut up chicken bottoms (or bought deboned thighs, because I know you guys, and I know that you’re thinking, hey why go through all this work, when I can just buy it…well you’re what’s wrong with our society!)…ok sorry for that.. moving right along…so I took the chicken, and rolled it up so it would be thicker, and more uniform, and decided you know what would be a great application for these pieces of chicken? Braising.

Braising is, in my opinion, a very underutilized technique. The idea behind it is like this – the gentlest and easiest way to cook something is by using water as a heat transfer medium (ie – it’s more predictable to cook something in water, than in air [the oven] because of how well water can transfer heat), but there’s one caveat, high heat develops flavor. So braising combines the best of both worlds, you get high heat cooking, and liquid cooking. The way it works is thusly – first you brown whatever protein you’re cooking, remove the meat, and add whatever veggies. Then you add enough liquid so that it will end up submerging half of the meat, cover the whole thing with a tight fitting lid, and continue cooking.

For our application, I rolled up the boneless chicken, and tied it with some twine. Set up a dutch oven over high heat, and browned the chicken on all sides.

chicken_cooking

While that was cooking, I mixed some honey, dijon mustard, hot sauce, and porter beer. I removed the chicken, added the liquid to the pot, and scraped the bottom while it was cooking (as the chicken browns, it develops what’s called fond on the bottom of the pan, which is a big source of flavor, so scraping it off the bottom helps). I added the chicken back, covered the pot, and placed in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes…I think.

chicken_sauce_rawsauce_cooking

When it was all done, the porter had reduced by a lot, and made an excellent thick sauce, and the chicken was actually pretty awesome, and I think you should definitely give this a try.

So yeah, that’s all for now, if you have any questions, let’s talk.

I’m not going to lie, I miss you random people I mostly don’t know, so I’m going to leave you with an empty promise that I’m going to try and post more often. I really want to but you know, life and all that gets in the way, so yeah, first world problems…whatever…enjoy the snow.

Meatballs…oh and, buckle up because this is gonna be a long post

DSC_7118

Howdy fellow internet peoples. 3 months…it’s been about 3 months since I’ve last posted, and while it’s been pretty hectic, I know that you have been waiting with bated breath for me, and I would like to let you know I’m still alive. Well, over the last few few months, I had some time to think about this blog and where it’s headed (and no, I’m not stopping, just keep on reading). You see, when I started writing my thoughts on this here website, I wasn’t really sure where it would take me. Heck, I’m still not sure, but there are a few things that I’ve realized along the way.  So here goes.

I’m a “food blogger” there, I said it. Some might even call me a “foodie.” But, I’m really not. Sure I really enjoy food, and I happen to write about it also, but ultimately what I view what I “do” is I enjoy taking the time to understand the food I make and eat. I know that sounds lame-azoid, but it’s true. You see I think that when it comes to “foodies” (it pains me to write them words) there are really two flavors. There are those that enjoy the “pizzazz” and flashiness of a given food. These types of people are more interested in stuff like presentation of food, artistic renderings of food, and the such. Then there are people that enjoy the inner working, the background, and the ancillary stuff. These individuals are more into how things work, and possibly the history behind a given dish or food. Now obviously a person is not exclusively one and not the other, but I think you can usually associate more with one than the other.

That being said, I think I’m more of the second type. I like understanding food. You might be asking yourself…what exactly does this have to do with meatballs? And um, how much longer, because you see, I got this thing…So kind of in a round about way, I made meatballs over the second days of Sukkos, and it made me think about this whole blog thing that I do. Lemme splain. You see people know I like food, and I’m always talking to people about food, and I really like doing that, but inevitably people ask me what I made, and I feel like (and I can be way off on this one) they’re thinking all right, let’s see what the “foodie” did…And I kind of found myself embarrassed to say “meatballs,” as if, “meatballs? That’s it? where’s the pizzazz? What made it different from run-of-the-mill meatballs that everyone else made…nothing?…boring…”

Am I talking Greek here? Does anyone else know what I’m talking about?

Anyway, it made me think. Like I said earlier, I don’t “do” the whole pizzazz thing, that’s not really my food modus operandi. I like understanding what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and expounding on that understanding.  I like to write, and I like to discuss food, especially when it comes to ideas about food, explaining how things work, and that sort of stuff. But, what I’ve come to realize is that by writing a food blog and being a “foodie,” over time I’ve kind of strayed away from that mindset. Lately, I’ve felt the pressure of having to conform to what a food blog is supposed to do..namely – supply recipes so people can make food, and go on with their lives. But, I’m not about that…so basically what I’m trying to say is that I’m going to try and change things up…I’m going to try and go back to what I think defines me as a “food blogger” a little better. So from a practical standpoint, I might have less practical “recipes” (oh by the way, did I ever tell you that I hate the institution that are “recipes”??…that’s for another time…), but I will hopefully have more ideas, and more sharing of what I try to do. And as always, I like discussing food…so please feel free to comment, feel free to give me your 2 cents, it makes me feel special.

Anyway, let’s move on to the meatballs, finally.

These were hands down the best meatballs I’ve ever made, and most likely ever eaten…and -gaspI didn’t even follow a recipe! Would you believe it?? How you might ask? Well it comes down to understanding techniques, and how and why they apply.

First thing I did was grind my own meat. Grinding your own meat makes worlds of a difference (yeah I’m that guy) from store bought ground meat. You obviously need a meat grinder (around $40 if you have a kitchen aid, you can even do it in a food processor if you own one, but I don’t pasken shaylos about the fleishig status), but it also requires patience, and know-how.  The main thing is – Keep everything as cold as possible. This prevents the fat in the meat from melting too soon, and pretty much clogging up the grinder. You also don’t want to go too fast in the meat grinder, and you’re going to need to nudge the meat every once in a while, but not be too forceful. I’ve done it around 6 times now, and it took me at least 3 times to really get the hang of it.

DSC_7114

I cut up the meat (which by the way, was some left over boneless short ribs thanks to my mom) into roughly 1″ pieces, and placed in the freezer,

DSC_7094

and then went to work on the spices/aromatics, so I could grind them all together.

DSC_7104

For the spices, I started by toasting dry whole cumin, black peppercorn, fennel, brown mustard seeds, and whole dried Japones chilies. Toasting it at this point, allows some of the essential oils to start developing more flavor. It only takes about 3 minutes, and doesn’t even dirty the pot.

DSC_7106

Once they were done, I put them in to a spice grinder along with three dried shiitake mushrooms, and ground it up to a fine powder. I’ll get to why I added the mushrooms in a second, but before that, let’s focus on the aromatics.

DSC_7101

On low heat, I sauteed shallots, garlic, and tomato paste, until everything was nice and translucent, like 5 minutes. The shallots and garlic lend flavor, and you want to do it on low so they don’t burn. The tomato paste lends a deep “umami” flavor that’s heightened by toasting it also.

DSC_7099

Umami is this word that gets thrown around a lot, but not really something well understood. For all intents and purposes, umami is really kind of like depth of flavor. Things that are “umami” are really intense, but not in a burnt type of way. Think of meaty stuff, or mushrooms. They’re “heavier” and more intense of a flavor. Now I know that’s a really crappy way of describing it, because at it’s core it is really a different taste, but the real beauty of the taste is that it deepens flavors. A perfect example is MSG, aka monosodium glutamate. Studies have shown that MSG is harmless, and in fact present in many common place foods we eat (tomatoes, mushrooms…) and what MSG really does, is hold food particles longer on your tongue, so you taste it more. (Now, I’m definitely not an expert in anything, and to be honest I’m not 100% sure if what I said was accurate, but that’s my understanding, if you know something I said was wrong, lemme know).

Anyway, recently more work has been done on glutamates (ala monosodium glutamate), and using it in cooking, and without getting too into it, it’s been shown that there are really two different parts to cooking umami stuff, there are the afformentioned glutamates, and something else called nucleotides, and they both work synergistically (whoa, big word…it means they work together). The glutamates in our dish come from the tomato paste, and the dried shiitake mushrooms are a great source for nucleotides. So what does that mean practically speaking? Well, both of these things work together to give us a deeper more umami oomph of flavor to our final product. And more flavor=happier patrons=more compliments=you feeling better about yourself=happier life…you can’t argue with math…it’s really quite simple.

After the spices and dried mushrooms were ground to a fine powder with my old coffee grinder (which by the way, I know most people don’t have a dedicated spice grinder, but that goes in that same category of “you can really taste the difference” and if you can you should definitely give it a try), and then added it to the aromatics to “bloom” which is yet another way for the essential oils to develop flavor in the presence of fat, and low heat.

DSC_7108

Once that was finished, I added it to the meat and then tossed it all together, and then sent through the meat grinder. To the ground meat, I added some salt and panko bread crumbs. By the way, if you ever were in this situation, and you wanted to see how everything tastes, you can take a little of the meat mixture, and cook it up, and taste it now to see if it needs any tweaks.

DSC_7116

Once the meat was ready, I formed medium sized meatballs, and placed them on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet, and placed into my preheated 425 degree oven, for about 30 minutes, rotating once.

While the meatballs were doing their jig, I started on the sauce.

DSC_7128

I happened to have a pot of stock going on the burner, so I took about 1-1.5 cups of the chicken stock, placed over medium heat, and added some ketchup, brown sugar, habanero sauce, and I think mustard. I let that cook for a little, and when the meatballs were ready, I placed in the sauce, and simmered for about another 20 minutes or so.

DSC_7134

I served this over some basmati rice, and in my lamest of opinions, it was actually purdy dern tasty.

All right, so that’s that, I’m not going to post a recipe because I’m a bad ass bruh…but in all seriousness, as always, do you want to know more of what I did because I didn’t really do such a great job explaining? Do you want to know how I cooked the rice (hint: that may or may not be a future post…)? Or do you just want to tell me I’m a huge dolt??? Let’s shmooze.