Jen's Kitchen Blog

Learning to cook the food I like to eat…

Archive for the ‘Charcutepalooza’ Category

Charcutepalooza – The Salt Solution

Posted by jenskitchen on March 15, 2011

If you haven’t heard about Charcutepalooza yet, head over to Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s site for all the info, including a list of meat-loving bloggers, the Ruhls, the challenges, and much more.

The third Charcutepalooza challenge is all about brining. According to Ruhlman, in Charcuterie, “…if you like to cook, you will certainly want to have the brining technique (and a basic brine ratio) in your repertoire.” Well, I like to cook, so I guess this is my month to add the brining technique to my list of things I can do… For the salt solution challenge, which will be posted on March 15th, I am doing this post as a running journal of my brining experience.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stopped by The Meat Shop to buy pork chops and brisket for Charcutepalooza. The shop was crazy busy – more customers than I had seen there at one time before. Yet, every one was still as friendly as usual. I ordered my pork chops – cut 1 1/2″ thick and a five-pound beef brisket and then sat back and chatted with the other customers. Through the large window, we could see into the butchering area – meat was being cut to order… What an amazing site! Customers came and went while Beth and a gentleman I had not met yet were behind the counter greeting people, taking orders, and checking people out. I sat talking to one of the vendors of the nearby farmer’s market while inhaling that amazing butcher shop smell. (Truly I love that smell!) 

When I got my order, I was surprised how big 1 1/2″ thich pork chops were. I’d never seen anything like that in a grocery store. They were beautiful. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to brine these babies!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Today, I got up early to make my brines (should have started them last night so they’d have time to cool… But, I didn’t.) I read descriptions on twitter and in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s post about setting the pots in the snow to cool quickly. Um, there’s no snow here. Okay, I’ll just let them cool slowly. Took a while, but the brines are now in the fridge. My plan is to make the Garlic-Sage Brined Pork Chops, Corned Beef, and Home-Cured Sauerkraut from Charcuterie. I’m thinking the Pork Chops will be ready for tonight’s dinner. One week (give-or-take) until I have Corned Beef and two weeks until the sauerkraut is ready. Really glad I was on top of things this month and started the Charcuterie challenge early! Now, to think of side-dishes to make some awesome meals. I was going to make homemade applesauce… but my son’s had other plans for the apples, so… while I wait for my brines to finish chilling in the fridge, I’m wondering what will go well with the pork. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

Okay… There should be a picture here. Right now I’m having technical difficulties getting my various accounts and media do-hicky’s to play nice together. So… To see a pic of these beautiful pork chops, fresh out of the brine, check out this entry

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Last night’s dinner was amazing. The brined pork chops from the recipe in Charcuterie were very good. Both boys ate with gusto. On the side, I made a simple salad of just lettuce and a homemade mustard dressing and a baked bean dish that rocked. I think the older sous chef had six servings of that.

Baked Beans

  • Cooked white beans
  • Tomato Puree – I used Pomi
  • White Vinegar
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Mustard
  • Onion – Yellow
  • Bacon – My home-cured bacon from last Charcutepalooza Challenge : )

I cooked up a large bag of Great Northern White Beans. About 1/2 of the cooked beans went into the dish. The other half are reserved for another purpose…

I sliced the onion and put it in the bottom of my baking dish and then covered the onions with the cooked beans. In a bowl, I combined molasses, tomato puree, mustard, vinegar, and salt to taste. I’m not entirely sure of my measurements… Just til it looked right and tasted good!

I cut a good-size slab of bacon into chunks and fried it. After adding the bacon to the beans and onions, I poured over the tomato-molasses-mustard mixture and gave it a good mix. This went into a 350 degree oven for about 2 hours. I always know something will be good when the older son is brought out of his bedroom to ask what smells good 🙂

Mustard Dressing

For my dressing, I started with a basic oil and vinegar mixture. To this, I added mustard, honey, and garlic. Not really sure of the proportions or measurements here… Again, I go by what looks right. Then, I add the mayo. If I want a vinaigrette consistency, I usually use just a Tablespoon of mayo. This time, I wanted a slightly thicker dressing, so I added mayo… you guessed it… until it looked right. Then, I added salt to taste. The older sous chef ate several helpings of salad, and even told me, without prompting, mind you, how good the dressing was.

The younger sous chef wouldn’t try the beans or the salad (I think he’s on a meat only diet right now… well, meat and ice cream…) But, he ate quite a bit of the pork chop. (Though, he kept calling it steak : )

All in all, the meal was very satisfying, tasty, and plentiful. There’s still some pork chop and baked beans left. Thinking about having some for breakfast!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So, on day 6, I was supposed to pull my corned beef out of the brine and finish preparations… Sometimes life happens and 6 days of brining becomes 7 days of brining 🙂

I pulled the corned beef out of the brine solution, rinsed it, and prepared to cook… A bit more pickling spice plus some garlic went in the pot with my beautifully corned beef.

Now, how to serve this? Since I’m going to a corned beef dinner soon (complete with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots), I opted to make sandwiches. A stop by Gluten Free Creations for some of their mock rye bread was all I needed. A smear of mustard and layers of refrigerated corned beef on bread that tasted surprisingly how I remember rye bread tasting back when I ate gluten, made one incredible sandwich. Okay. I had two.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My little one and I ate big chunks of corned beef for dinner tonight while cuddling together. At four years old, he surprises me with how much he can eat when he likes something. I can safely say that this corned beef has his stamp of approval… He ate all of his and then started picking at my plate.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sadly, the home-brined sauerkraut did not make it… Little spots of mold around the top made me decide it was safer to pitch that experience. The weather has probably been much too nice and I doubt that the temperature stayed cool enough… Perhaps next winter. I mean, it’s technically still winter, but in Phoenix, winter just doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in other parts of the country.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I had an awesome time this month with the Salt Solution Challenge for Charcutepalooza. Adding brining to my cooking skills has been a lot of fun. Wanna play along… Mrs. Wheelbarrow has all the details on the April Challenge… Looks like a smokin’ good time! Something tells me there may just be a home-smoked Easter ham in my future… I’ll let you know about my adventures with the Hot Smoking Challenge on April 15.


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Pork Chops… And technical frustrations.

Posted by jenskitchen on March 15, 2011

IMAG0580 by pmsister
IMAG0580 a photo by pmsister on Flickr.

Pork Chops, brined and resting… Ready for dinner.

Sometimes, even when you remember to curb your hunger long enough to take a picture before you eat… It doesn’t always work out. I need to do a bit more research on how to make the pictures I have play nice with all this technology. I know it can be done, but right now I have the pictures on my phone and some of them uploaded to Flickr. So far, I have not been able to figure out how to get those pictures to the correct blog entry… So, for now… Check out these pork chops that go with my Charcutepalooza – The Salt Solution challenge entry…

Posted in Charcutepalooza | 2 Comments »

Charcutepalooza – The Salt Cure

Posted by jenskitchen on February 15, 2011




Bacon is amazing and one of my favorite low carb foods.

Too many of the pre-packaged bacons out there contain either gluten or other scary ingredients.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to make my own bacon. I also made some salt pork and preserved lemon while exploring the Charcuterie book that will have a regular place on my kitchen cookbook stand for at least the next year.

For now I have some pictures to share… With my favorite recipes to follow.

Edit: February 21, 2011 

Now that I’ve had a chance to try the bacon, I can say, “Homemade Bacon Rocks!” So far, other than just slicing off a few pieces and frying bacon, I’ve made pasta with creamy alfredo and bacon. Tonight we’re having baked beans with bacon. Yum. But, the recipe I can’t wait to share with you is… Buttermilk Biscuits with Bacon Gravy. Twenty years ago, a friend of mine (who, for whatever reason, doesn’t like sausage) taught me to make bacon gravy. Back then, it was store-bought bacon, wheat flour, and milk turned into very good gravy and spooned over those can-of-chemicals biscuits in a can. This week, I made homemade, gluten-free buttermilk biscuits and bacon gravy from my home-cured bacon, gluten-free flour, and milk. It was amazing! I’ll be fine-tuning the biscuit recipe and taking some better pics of the bacon gravy process before I share the final recipe.

My original post was sent from my phone (I kind of left the bacon curing to the last minute and therefore didn’t finish my bacon my bacon in the oven until about 2 hours before midnight on the posting date… sigh…) It’s been a busy month. So, I wanted to make sure to include a link for my favorite butcher in Phoenix… I’ve already told them that they’ll be my source for all things pork and beef for the Charcutepalooza challenges (and just about all of my meals, really…)

If you’re in the Phoenix area, take the time to check out The Meat Shop. The best days to go are on Friday and Saturday (Fresh Days). You can get your meat cut to your specificiations… They do it right there in front of you, well, through the big window where you can watch the process, anyway. While you wait, you are treated to that amazing butcher-shop smell. It reminds me of the butcher shop my mom used to take me to when I was little. Except that here, they’ll take the time to talk to you, swap recipes, make suggestions, and just be friendly.  They sold me a gorgeous pork belly to make my bacon, and even got the pink salt for me. And because I’m such a novice at all of this, they were able to give me some tips as well…

Next up for Charcutepalooza? Brines – The Salt Solution. Post coming March 15th… And this time, I’ve already started. Can’t wait to share next month’s challenge with you 🙂

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Charcutepalooza January Challenge: Duck Prosciutto

Posted by jenskitchen on January 15, 2011

The Year of Meat. Those were the words that got me. I mean, it’s a whole year of meat! What could be better than that? And charcutepalooza? Absolutely adorable name for a blogging event 🙂 When I read the tweet from Mrs. Wheelbarrow, I was in. And since I had just been thinking that my New Year’s Resolution needed to be to get back to my blog, this was just the kind of commitment I needed to get the ball rolling. Did I mention that it is a whole year of meat projects?

And, just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can check it out here for yourself. And, if you want to join in on the fun, you’ll find “the Ruhls” here. Ha. Ruhls.

The first challenge was Duck Prosciutto. Confession time. I’ve never actually eaten duck before. But, I’m the type of person who loves a challenge. I love trying new things. So, there I was… looking at the challenge details. Find a duck. Locally sourced and humanely raised if possible. This resulted in a series of humorous daydreams about me going duck hunting (I don’t have the shoes for it. Or the gun. Or the boat.) And the guy I get duck eggs from would have been hurt if I had asked for one of his ducks. They’re kind of like his pets. So, after several attempts to find local, humanely raised duck failed, I decided to go to a small, local specialty meat shop. The guy at the counter asked me if I knew of a recipe for duck breasts because there had been a rise in sales lately. I told him about Charcutepalooza.

So, duck found. Book borrowed from the library. (I’ll buy my own soon). Ready to make prosciutto.

Eight days later…

Yes. Eight days to make prosciutto. For seven of those days I had duck breasts, seasoned and wrapped in cheesecloth hanging in my garage. I had to park my car in the driveway so I didn’t end up with exhaust-seasoned duck prosciutto. Today I pulled them down, unwrapped them, and sliced a very thin slice for a first taste.

Rich. Amazingly rich taste. I’ve never actually eaten duck before, so I have no idea how this compares. I don’t know what I was expecting. But all I could think of was how perfect the taste was.

Ah, but making the Duck Prosciutto was only part of the challenge. Now, what to do with it? Saltimbocca, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, pasta with prosciutto… All these things sounded amazing. In the end, I decided to go with Braciole. So here you go… My dinner tonight courtesy of Charutepalooza:


Disclaimer: I am not Italian. I have never made Braciole before in my life. I can’t even guarantee that what I made tonight IS Braciole. But every since I saw the Everybody Loves Raymond episode where Debra made Braciole, I’ve wanted to make it. From what I’ve read, Braciole is meat, pounded thin, filled with a variety of several fillings, browned, and then finished in tomato sauce. Which is what I made tonight…


Grass-fed Top Round Roast – from The Meat Shop in Phoenix, AZ

Duck prosciutto (recipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Michael Polcyn) – duck breast purchased from Hobe Meats, Phoenix

Parmesan cheese

Garlic – from the Farmer’s Market


Tomato sauce (made from fresh tomatoes) – from the Farmer’s Market

Carrots – from the Farmer’s Market

Onions – from the Farmer’s Market

Olive Oil – from Queen Creek Olive Mill

Here’s what I did:

Make tomato sauce: Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add chopped onions and cook until soft. Add cut tomatoes. Cook on low with pan partially covered until the tomatoes break down. Season to taste.

Make meat rolls: Butterfly the top roast and cut into individual servings. Pound thin. Pound thinner than I did. It would be helpful to have one of those meat pounding things for this. I didn’t have one, so I used my rolling pin. Layer each serving of beef with a layer of duck prosciutto followed by layers of any of the following: pesto, cheese, hard boiled egg slices, bread crumbs, ground beef. I used layers of ricotta cheese, garlic, parsley, and parmesan. Once layered, roll the beef and secure with a toothpick or tie with butcher’s twine. Brown the beef rolls in a hot pan on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Make sauce: Add a bit of olive oil and cook chopped carrots and garlic until soft. Add tomato sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return beef rolls to pan and cover to finish cooking through.

I served the braciole with gnocchi verde, a salad with freshly made vinagrette and the extra sauce on the side. I recommend this. I am absolutely in heaven right now.

The duck prosciutto added a rich, salty flavor to the beef that was perfect. The soft pillows of spinach and ricotta gnocchi were the perfect compliment. I felt really good that the majority of the ingredients for my meal were from local sources.

Want to join the fun? It’s not too late. Mrs. Wheelbarrow has extended the deadline to sign up for Charcutepalooza. Start in with the next challenge that was announced today: bacon and/or pancetta. Make the duck prosciutto at some point as well. Please visit the fabulous bloggers who have commited to a year of meat. You’ll find the current blogroll here.

Posted in Charcutepalooza, Low Carb | 5 Comments »