Category Archives: Uniquely Homemade

Tandoori Chicken Sausage

First, I want to apologize for my long delay between posts. February was an exciting month, but also a very full one. I just started an awesome new job, and have found that a lot of my mental energy has been consumed with planning, learning, and working. I also traveled to Orange County for almost a week to celebrate my grandparents’ 70th wedding anniversary. Our family gathered together from all over the west coast to celebrate my grandparents amazing marriage and longevity (they are 94 and 96). The highlight of the week for me was spending time with my adorable niece Evie, who is 3 1/2, and nephew James, who is 10 months old (and their parents, of course). They live in Portland, OR, so I don’t get to see them very often. Now I’m back home, and looking forward to getting back into my kitchen on a more regular basis.

So I’m back with a pretty involved project. Years ago, when I bought my KitchenAid Mixer, I also purchased a meat grinder and a sausage stuffer attachment. I’m embarrassed to say that I put them into a plastic tub and tucked them into my pantry. 4 years later, I’ve finally gotten motivated to pull them out and make sausage. To be honest, what motivated me was the opportunity to test this recipe for the Food52 website. They have regular competitions on the website to submit original recipes on a theme, and ask the other website members to test out the top contenders. I offered to test this one, so dug out my meat grinder and followed the recipe to a tee! I was impressed with the ease of grinding the meat and stuffing the sausage, especially with me being a newbie.

This recipe was pretty complex, and took two days to complete. To be honest, I think if I made it a second time, I might take a few shortcuts to get to a very similar flavor. So what I’m going to do is share what I did, but also share some time-savers I’d suggest if you’d like to get to a very similar result with a lot less effort and time. The key element of this recipe is the tandoori spice paste. It is thoroughly delicious! The paste gives the meat a richness and depth that really elevates it to a special-occasion dish. So instead of dicing your meat into pieces, then grinding it in the grinder, then stuffing it, you can create a similar flavor by mixing the paste into some pre-ground meat and cooking it as loose sausage meat or patties.

Tandoori Chicken Sausage

Makes 5 lbs of sausage

For the seasoning paste

2 tbsp olive oil or canola oil

4 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

2 cardamon pods, crushed

5 cloves

2 onions, grated

2 tomatoes, grated

1/2 tablespoon turmeric

1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons yogurt

7 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons grated ginger

2 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon garam masala

3 tablespoons paprika

1 lime, juiced

For the Sausage (sausage grinding and stuffing procedure)

3.5 pounds chicken thigh meat, diced into small pieces

1.5 pounds pork back fat, diced into small pieces

40 grams of kosher salt

1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro

1 cup ice cold water

10 feet of hog casings, soaked to re-hydrate

For the Sausage (simple loose sausage procedure)

3 pounds ground chicken, not lean

2 pounds ground pork or un-seasoned fresh pork sausage (adds fat to make texture more like sausage)

40 grams of kosher salt

1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro

The first step in the recipe is to cook the spices on the stove to make the masala. Heat some olive oil in a pot over medium heat and add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and cloves. Allow the aromas to fill your kitchen and for the spices to toast a little. Add the grated onion and tomatoes. Season with salt and cook until nicely brown and caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the turmeric and cayenne pepper and cook for another minute. Add the yogurt, garlic, ginger, serrano chiles, paprika, lime juice and garam masala. Cook the masala until it is completely dry and there is no visible moisture. This is key to ensuring your sausage becomes the correct texture. The finished masala should look like a seasoning paste. Take the masala off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove all of the whole spices at this point (cloves, cinnamon, bay, and cardamom).

For the sausage grinding and stuffing technique:

If you add hot masala to the chicken, the chicken will cook, so make sure the masala is extremely cold before adding it to the diced chicken and pork fat. Add cilantro and the salt to the chicken masala and let sit in the fridge overnight so everything gets really, really cold. I’d recommend putting it into the freezer for a couple of hours before you grind it, which helps the texture to keep from getting too sticky.

Put the chicken mixture through the small die on a meat grinder. Once all is ground, put the mixture in the bowl of your kitchen aid and start the mixture with the paddle attachment. Slowly add in the water until the mixture becomes very sticky, about 1 minute.

Put the hog casings on the tube of your sausage stuffer and stuff into one huge link. Then, twist the casing to create 6 inch links. You can also save some loose sausage meat and use it to make sausage patties, as you can see below. The loose meat freezes well in quart-sized ziploc bags.

Cook the sausages to 160 degrees either by grilling or roasting.

For the loose sausage method:

Remove the paste from the fridge, add in the salt and cilantro, and run it in a food processor for a minute, just to break down any remaining chunks.  Mix the paste into the ground chicken and pork, stirring to combine thoroughly. You can then form the meat into patties or cook as loose sausage meat to use in recipes like frittatas.

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Filed under Main Dishes, Uniquely Homemade

Homemade Goat Queso Blanco

I’ve been a fan of making cheese for a few years now. My go-to cheese is fresh goat cheese, which requires some culture and rennet to make the magic work (not hard to buy online, but not a spur of the moment project). I recently joined a year-long cheesemaking challenge, hosted by Rachel and Tom on the local Bay Area blog Another Year Without Groceries. Our first challenge was to make a cheese using only curdled milk. I chose to follow Rachel’s lead and make a goat-milk based Queso Blanco, which is curdled with cider vinegar. This is a crumbly fresh cheese that you often see topping Mexican dishes.

Summerhill Goat Milk

Since I don’t have my own goats like Rachel, I bought my milk. I like the Summerhill Dairy goat milk you can buy at Trader Joe’s and my local grocery heaven, Berkeley Bowl. It is not ultra-pasteurized, which is really important for good cheesemaking (the ultra high heat breaks down some of the proteins that make the cheesemaking magic happen). I used 3 quarts…don’t ask me why I didn’t round it out at a gallon…no idea! You can certainly use regular whole cow milk as well.

Dump your milk into a non-reactive pan (stainless steel or enameled is best, don’t use aluminum or cast iron). First, heat the milk to 180 degrees. You will need to use a thermometer for this step, but any meat or candy one should do. Then add cider vinegar. For a gallon, you need about a quarter cup. Since I used 3/4 of a gallon, I just under-filled the 1/4 cup measure by a bit…it doesn’t need to be an exact science. Stir slowly as you add the vinegar, and let it dribble in vs. dumping. Keep stirring slowly until you see the mixture begin to separate, with white clumps and a yellowish liquid. You now have curds and whey (see above)!

Take a large bowl and place a strainer on top. Line the strainer with a fine-weaved dish cloth (like the flour sack variety) or real cheesecloth (not the type with big holes you get at the grocery store). One of my favorite tools in the kitchen is a set of straining cloths (called “All-Strain cloths”, pictured above) I purchased from the chef Michael Ruhlman. He has a shop on the website Open Sky where he sells kitchen implements that he and local Cleveland craftsman have made. Open Sky is an amazing site where many chefs and other prominent folks sell items they personally use and endorse at a competitive prices. It’s one of those sites where you have to join to see prices and buy, but it’s really worth it–I’ve gotten many things from chefs like Tom Colicchio and Dorie Greenspan. If you are interested, you can follow this link for $10 off your first purchase.  All-Strain cloths are $22 for 3, so only $12 with the discount. They are heavy-duty, and I use them for everything from straining stocks to draining fresh goat cheese. (I do get a little referral bonus if you follow my link to Open Sky and end up purchasing, but I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t really buy a ton of kitchen things from them!)

Keep transferring the contents of the pot (emptying the drained whey as needed to keep the liquid from touching the strainer) until it is empty. If you want to salt your cheese, as I did, wait until a lot of the liquid has drained off (maybe 30 minutes), then transfer the curds into another bowl. Add salt to your taste. I added 1 tsp for this amount, and it seemed to work well. Mix well to incorporate the salt, then transfer back to the cloth to do your final draining.

It is important to tie it up to drain for the final step, as the weight of the bundle hanging will drain out more of the liquid. I used kitchen string to knot the cloth together into a bag, and hang it from the handle of the microwave above my stove. All you need is a place to tie some string and hang your bundle above a bowl. It will still be dripping for a while–it’s up to you how dry you want your cheese. You can feel the bundle and see how firm it is getting, and take it down once it’s the consistency you want. It only took a couple of hours for mine to feel right to me. It is a firm, crumbly texture, as you see from my picture on the top of the post.

I was inspired by Rachel to use my cheese on a homemade whole-wheat pizza made with pesto and sauteed rapini (aka broccoli rabe). So yummy! It doesn’t really melt (similar to goat cheese or feta), but worked great on a pizza when topped at the last few minutes of cooking with a little bit of shredded mozzarella to hold it together. It also was delicious on a quesadilla, as long as you remember it’s a bit more loose than regular melted cheese and eat carefully. I think I’m really going to enjoy this cheesemaking challenge!

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January 31, 2012 · 8:11 am

Pressure Canning Chicken Stock

As you saw in my last post, I recently made Chicken Stock. Right now, my freezer is pretty full, so I’ve finally decided to give something a try that will allow me to preserve a larger amount of stock for future use. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I’m finally going to give pressure canning a try. I have spent years preserving using the more common method of water bath canning. For anyone who isn’t familiar with canning techniques, here’s a brief overview:

Water bath canning involves boiling jars with specially constructed two-part lids in a large pot of water, to both sterilize the contents and seal the jars and make them shelf stable. This is only safely done with high-acid foods, like jam, pickles, and some tomato preserves.

For lower acid foods, like vegetables, soups, and meats, the only safe way to can them for shelf storage is to use a pressure canner. This takes the same principle as water bath canning, but uses the mechanics of a pressure-cooker to allow for higher heat processing, to render the contents safe for storage at room temperature.

I recently bought a pressure canner on Craigslist. They are pretty expensive new, but while I was buying a few cases of used jars from a guy, he mentioned he was looking to sell his pressure canner, and I jumped at the chance. It has been sitting around getting dusty, and I finally got up the courage to give it a try. I guess the challenge is that I’ve never even used a pressure cooker, and all that super-heated steam seemed a bit scary…and the thought of poisoning myself is also frightening. But this was as good a time as any, and I have to tell you, there’s nothing to it. Just follow trusted instructions for timing and pressure, and you’re good to go. Check out this site for more details.

For the chicken stock, I used pint jars. You can definitely use quart jars, but my stock was very concentrated, and I wanted to have the flexibility to use small amounts at a time, for making sauces and adding to dishes (not just for big batches of soup). The process is pretty simple.

  • Fill the canner with at least 3 inches of water and start it heating. It should be at least simmering when you place the jars in it. You don’t want to cover the jars with water, as it is steam, not water, that causes the pressure canning process to work
  • Heat the lids and rings in simmering water (to soften the rubber). Feel free to use the heating water in the canner
  • Clean and sterilize your jars (I usually boil them in water, but you can also heat them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes)
  • Fill the jars with the stock, and then screw on the tops loosely (just finger-tight)
  • Load up the canner with the jars. Mine holds 8 pint jars, and based on the amount of time involved, I definitely always plan to fill it to capacity
  • Next you lock on the lid and turn up the heat to high. Each pressure canner has a unique process for locking on the lid. Mine has screws to tighten

The key to a pressure canner is that there is a steam vent in the lid, and a weight is placed on top of the vent to allow pressure to build up to a specified level, which lets the water inside heat beyond the normal maximum boiling point of water, 212 degrees. This super-heats the contents of the jars, ensuring that the contents are sterile and will not spoil or carry harmful bacteria. This is a basic review of the process, though it varies a bit by manufacturer.

  • Seal the lid, which in the case of my canner involves lifting up the screws and tightening them until they are all firmly sealed. The best strategy to ensure a good seal is to tighten the screws across from each other at the same time
  • Turn the heat to high, watch for the steam to begin to escape, and let the steam vent for at least 2-3 minutes
  • Then add the weight to the vent. For chicken stock, the proper weight is 10 lbs of pressure at my altitude (near sea level)
  • Watch the dial on the canner, and begin counting processing time when it reaches at least 10 lbs of pressure. Mine ended up at 11, which is fine. Then time the appropriate processing time. For stock, it is 20 minutes for pints, and 25 minutes for quarts
  • After the time has elapsed, turn off the heat, and leave the canner alone for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the weight, and see if there is any pressure released. If so, give it another 15-20 minutes to completely remove pressure.
  • Then unscrew the tabs on the lid and remove it. EVERYTHING WILL STILL BE REALLY HOT! Using a jar lifter and being careful, place the jars on a cloth to completely cool. You can always wait longer if you would rather not deal with the hot jars. I always tend to be doing these things at night, and am impatient to get finished…
  • After the jars are completely cool, check the buttons on top for a seal. When you press, they should not bounce back. If any jars do not seal, store in the fridge until use (1 week max)

Then find great ways to use your amazing chicken stock! Beyond soups, you can use it as part of your liquid when making rice or quinoa, use it as a base for making meat sauces, or whip up a fantastic risotto.

FYI, don’t worry if there is a bit of sediment on the bottom of the jar, and an off-white cloudy layer on the top, as in the picture. The sediment is harmless, but can be strained out if you like when you use the stock, and the white layer is separated chicken fat–it will re-incorporate when you heat the stock.

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Filed under Canning, Preserving, Uniquely Homemade