Asian Sausages With Coconut & Shiitake Mushrooms

It’s not news that I love sausage.  Even if you just started reading, i’m pretty sure I mentioned it once or twice.  I have been trying to work on the art of Charcutrie recently.  It only makes sense to be able to create something I love so dearly.  I pulled out my Sausage Bible (yes, real book) and started looking for something unique to make.  I live off of sausage, I needed a different flavor for once.  Also since my recent blog fascination I’ve been packing on some pounds making these recipes, so a chicken sausage was preferred.  I came across this recipe for Asian Sausages in a Coconut & Shiitake Mushroom Sauce.  It had a few varieties of sausage that could be used to make this dish.  I chose a sausage that was filled with your cliche ingredients – ginger, sesame oil, fish sauce, I had to keep it simple to start. I changed up some of the ingredients, but I stayed true for the most part.

Asian Chicken Sausage

  • 3 lbs of Chicken Thighs, skin on, deboned
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2-3 Jalapenos, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry
  • Red Pepper Flakes (as desired for your hotness gauge)
  • Sea Salt
  • Sesame Oil (For sauteing)

I used chicken thighs because they are the fattier portion of a chicken, and they just tend to be far more tender and moist (I hate that word, but my internal thesaurus isn’t working this late).  The skin must be kept on to avoid having a dry sausage.  Put cut up chicken thighs into the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up before grinding.  In the mean time, saute shallots, garlic, ginger, jalapenos in sesame oil until shallots are translucent.   Set aside to cool, and get your grinder ready.  I first ground my thighs on the bigger grind plate 2 times through.  After that, add your sauteed veg, sea salt, panko crumbs, red pepper flakes, fish sauce, and sherry.  Switch out to the smallest grind plate and send through two times.  At this point, fry up a small patty to assure you are happy with the seasonings.  I did add dry ginger at this point just because I wanted that ingredient to shine, but add whatever you like.  When you adjust your ingredients to what you are happy with, send through one more time.

Depending on what you want to do with your sausage, you can either leave it in bulk to crumble in a dish, or stuff them.  I stuffed mine because I had a particular dish I was making it for.  I used hog casings since that is all that is available to me easily at the grocery store.  I let them soak for about an hour being using, and rinsed each one before use.  I use my kitchen aid for sausage stuffing, getting pretty good at it too!  I made small sausages, only about 3 1/2-4 inches long.  I had a vision for how I wanted my dish to look,  I didn’t want this huge sausage consuming my plate.  Plus they were pretty darn cute.  After stuffing, I set them on platter to dry overnight in the fridge.  If you have the ability to hang them, that would be the best option.  I was at my boyfriend’s house making this dish, my sausage fridge is at my house.  Yes, I do indeed have a fridge dedicated to sausage hanging, i’m not obsessed at all.

Asian Sausages with Coconut Milk & Shiitake Mushrooms

  • 2 lbs prepared sausages
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1 small bunch of scallions, white part only
  • 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons Chinese chile paste
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt, as needed
  • Sesame oil for sauteing
  • Vegetable oil for sauteing
  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Sherry Cooking Wine, 1/4 cup
  • Cornstarch + water, as needed
  • Scallions, Green tops chopped for garnish

Fry up sausages in a deep skillet, I used half sesame oil, half vegetable oil for frying.  Cook until browned on both sides, but not fully cooked in the middle.  Remove sausages and set aside, add ginger, scallions, jalapenos, garlic, mushrooms, and saute until tender.  Add coconut milk, fish sauce, sherry wine, chile paste, macadamia nuts.  Bring to a boil, add sausages.  When it begins to simmer, reduce to low heat and cover for 25 minutes.  Check your sauce for seasonings, add more if needed.  If you feel its too bland or only one ”layer” of flavor, add more sherry.  Add sea salt and pepper flakes to desired flavor.  Don’t be intimidated by the ”spicy” ingredients in this dish.  I am not brave when it comes to spicy food, and this dish was very mild.  If your sauce isn’t thick enough, remove sausages and mix in cornstarch and water to desired consistency.  Serve sausages over the mushroom sauce and garnish with macadamia nuts, scallions, and red pepper flakes.  This dish would be incredible over soba noodles or rice.

Smoked Mac & Cheese

Smoked Mac & Cheese

Last week I received my new shiny Weber Smokey Mountain smoker.  I haven’t had a chance to really play with it due to it being so busy at work.  I am a member of a BBQ Forum the BBQ Brethren (Link on side panel) and I had seen pics of people smoking their mac and cheese on their grills.  Ever since then I knew I had to try this myself.  I make a pretty mean mac and cheese, I am not even allowed to step into a family function without the mac and cheese in hand.  I had never even thought to make it on the grill so this seemed like a great experiment for me.  I did decide to switch up my usual recipe.  My usual recipe is the dense mac and cheese that is served in squares like a casserole, rather than the creamy mac.  I figured on the smoker the creamier version would work better.  Since I also wanted to go with a BBQ theme I figured rather than doing a bread crumb topping I would go with a traditional BBQ side for the topping, cornbread!  Here is how I made it –

  • 1 lb box of noodles – I used Rotini
  • 1 lb of smoked gouda, shredded
  • 1 small package of velveeta (for texture)
  • 1 lb shredded sharp cheddar
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 stick butter + enough flour to make a roux
  • Powdered mustard, hot sauce, salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic powder, onion powder to taste
  • 1 recipe of prepared cornbread
  • Honey
  • Melted Butter

I will admit, I cheated a bit.  I didn’t feel like making cornbread, so I bought a prepared package of it at the store.  Today was all about cooking outside!  I unwrapped the cornbread, poked a bunch of holes in it with a fork and added melted butter mixed with honey and drizzled it over and set aside.

I cooked the noodles until it was almost done, but not quite there yet.  I strained the noodles and ran them under cold water until chilled.  I then made a roux with the butter and flour and added the milk until thickened.  Add all the spices to taste, I never measure this part – sorry!  Add all cheeses until smooth and creamy.  Toss in noodles and mix well.  I mixed in half of the cornbread mixture to my mac and cheese, and reserved the rest to sprinkle on top.

To finish cooking the mac and cheese on the smoker, I used a cast iron skillet because I knew it would handle the smoker well and would retain enough heat in it to sort of “bake” the smoked mac and cheese.  I buttered the bottom of the skillet, poured in the mac and cheese and then sprinkled the remaining cornbread on top.

The wood I used on my smoker was apple and hickory.  I kept the mac and cheese on the top rack of the smoker for about 3 hours.  The topping didn’t get crisp and crunchy, but toasted just enough to have a bit of a crust.  I was skeptical that the mac and cheese would really pick up a smokey flavor, but it really did!  It was definitely a whole different flavor profile than mac and cheese just made in an oven.  If you have a smoker I highly recommend trying this!

Greek Night – Chicken Gyros & Baklava Parfaits

I have decided I don’t share nearly enough recipes as I feel I should.  There are some recipes I feel are too sacred to share, even though i’m sure most of them aren’t that big of a secret.  Tonight I wanted to make a healthy dinner but without feeling like I was missing out.  I decided to go with a Greek theme since there are so many flavorful ingredients from the Mediterranean.  The only catch is that I cannot have lemon juice.  I just wanted to share that beforehand since i’m sure many people will wonder why I left out such a key ingredient.

I pondered for a while what my menu should be.  I had some inspiration from my favorite local restaurant – Christy’s Pancake House.  My absolute favorite dish to get there is their Chicken Gyro.  It gives me the opportunity to have the convenience of eating out but still eating responsibly.  I figured I could save some money by learning how to make a rip off of my favorite dish.  I decided my menu would be Chicken Gyros, Greek potatoes, watermelon, and the real kicker was the dessert – Healthy Baklava.  I was very unsure of how the dessert would come out but I figured i’d wing it, if it turned out bad then nobody had to know about it!  I will apologize before hand – I never measure.  I can give you my ingredients but I always go by taste.

For the chicken gyros:

  • Ground Chicken
  • Chopped Garlic
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary (Finely chopped or put through a spice grinder)
  • Greek Oregano
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Red Wine Vinegar

I mixed up all the ingredients very well in a large bowl.  Do not skimp out on the spices, more is better.  Since I used ground chicken it takes a lot more seasoning to be delicious than using beef or lamb.  It does not take alot of red wine vinegar, probably only about 2 tablespoons for 1 pound of chicken.  I formed my meat into long oval pattys because I put them in a whole wheat pita rather than using a bun.  I sauteed my pattys in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil until seared on both sides and cooked throughout.  The garnish I used for my gyros were – tomato, red onion, lettuce, cucumber sauce (recipe follows)

For the Cucumber Sauce

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Fresh Mint
  • 1 English cucumber finely diced
  • Sea Salt
  • Chopped Garlic
  • Red Wine Vinegar

Let this mixture sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors meld.

 

Greek Potatoes

  • 4-5 Baking Potatoes skins on, cut into wedges
  • Greek Seasoning
  • Olive Oil
  • Feta Cheese
  • Chopped Kalamata Olives

Cut potatoes into wedges, I cut mine into 8ths.  Toss the potato wedges in olive oil and Greek seasonings.  Bake the potatoes in a 400 degree oven until browned and cooked through.  After letting the potatoes come to room temp toss them in chopped Kalamata olives and feta cheese.  Add salt if needed but the feta and olive add more than enough.

Last but not least – DESSERT!

I was worried that I would not be able to post about this.  I was positive that this was not going to go very well.  I had googled Baklava Parfait in hopes that I could get some tips on what they used for the phyllo dough.  I didn’t find any hits – weird huh?  This made me really feel this would be a flop!  I decided to do it anyway, I’m a rebel like that.  I used things I had on hand mainly because I didn’t want to spend money on something that may be going straight to the garbage.  I had walnuts and brown sugar on hand.  I figured I could toss the walnuts in some butter and cover in brown sugar and toast in the oven until it gets caramelized.   I then took the Greek yogurt I had left over from the cucumber sauce and mixed in vanilla, loads of honey and cinnamon.  The phyllo was the stumper.  I knew it had to have a very buttery flavor or it would just not have the same flavor profile.  I found some 100 calorie pack Lorna Doone cookie packs.  Sure, why not.

I mixed up my yogurt, toasted my walnuts, crushed up my cookies and found a neat martini glass set my boyfriend had.  Believe it or not, It was incredible!  The toasted walnuts with brown sugar had that perfect gooey, caramel-ly goodness that real baklava had.  The yogurt had the perfect amount of sweetness, and the cookies had a great hit of buttery flavor I was hoping for.   This is what my big experiment ended up looking like –

Baklava Parfait

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Walnuts
  • Brown Sugar
  • Butter to coat
  • Sea Salt
  • Any type of butter or shortbread cookie, crushed

Mix yogurt, honey, cinnamon – refrigerate until ready to use

Coat walnuts in melted butter, toss in brown sugar and sea salt.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until brown sugar begins to melt and almost turn to brittle.  Let cool fully

Crush cookies

Find your favorite parfait glass layer cookie, yogurt, walnuts, a little squiggle of honey and repeat as much as you can.

Enjoy!

Charcuterie Charcutarrroooo Charcuterrahh ha ha ha!

If it hasn’t been obvious enough yet from previous reading – I have a mad obsession with sausages.  I couldn’t even tell you my favorite because I don’t discriminate against any pork products.  Maybe it’s the half Polish genes in me that causes this obsession.  You know that question “if you were on a deserted island and only had one item to eat what would it be?” Without a doubt – SAHSAGES!

I had received a kitchen aid strictly for the use of the sausage attachment from my boyfriend 2 years ago.  It only makes sense that I should be experimenting with creating my own sausages.  I had used it a few times but I wasn’t always entirely thrilled with the end result.  The flavor was always spot on but the texture was a bit wacky.  I love when you cut into a sausage and it has this beautiful clean cut to it without any obvious bits of ground meat.  Mine always seemed to show bits of ground meat.  It wasn’t exploding out or anything, but it was obvious enough to a sausage enthusiast such as myself *eh hem*.   I randomly decided at work that I wanted to make sausage today.  I asked my pal if she would help me out in making some sausages that would meet my high standards.  She agreed.  After I paid her.  Just kidding…

 

We started with 5 lbs of pork butt and about 1 1/2 to 2lbs of pork fat.  More fat would have been ideal but it wasn’t available to us and my impatience sometimes causes me to just accept what I have to work with.  I hope I can admit this without anyone being weirded out, but this was the most amazing cut of pork butt I have ever touched.  It was almost therapeutic to be cutting into it.  It was so tender and it sprung back so nicely when touched.  It was one gorgeous piece of meat!  I am not ashamed to admit that it was one sexy piece of pork ass.  I cubed up all 5 lbs of meat and fat and rested it on a sheet pan to put in the freezer for about an hour for easier grinding.  When my meat was frozen and firm enough (so many innuendos in the post, no?) it was ready to be seasoned and ground.  Since I am not a sausage pro yet we did have to research some sausage recipes for seasonings.  I knew I wanted the sweet sausage with fennel, so that was our starting point.  The seasonings we went with were fennel, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic (fresh), crushed red pepper, and red wine vinegar.  For grinding we used a Kitchen Aid with grinder attachment, using only the smaller of the two grind plates.  As I said earlier, my problem with making sausage is that I can see the ground meat still, because of this I put the meat through 3 times hoping that it was ground up enough that I wouldn’t see groundy bits when it was cut into.  After three times through the grinder it was time to case the sausage.  My friend that I was making the sausage with had not cased sausage in a while and had usually left it bulk, but for the sake of fixing my sausage issues she agreed to assist me with this.  After awkward moments of stringing the casing onto the tube without giggling uncontrollably and odd moments of imagining making balloon animals with blown up casings we finally got on track.  The first time around we just did a spiral of sausage, after that we got more daring and actually went for the links, impressive I know. 

Once we had our sausage cut, seasoned, ground, and stuffed it was time to cook one up.   Unfortunately the one we tested did burst a bit, but we accepted we may have stuffed that group a little too much.  We shrugged that off and still accepted the little link.  It was time for the moment of truth.  We cut into the sausage . . . and it was beautiful!  Even with it bursting a bit, the meat still had a very clean cut without any obvious meat bits bulging out.  It was also delicious by the way… my main goal in this was to make the texture right but I should give the little guy credit for also being very tasty.  Overall the sausage making was a success.  All I can think of that I may have been doing wrong was make a finer grind and perhaps the wetness of the vinegar helped a bit too.  Or maybe I was just being too critical on my past porkies?  Who knows, all I really know is sausage is delicious.

 

The Great Turkey Adventure!

Before I explain my great turkey adventure I had today I need to explain my new found passion that made the adventure possible.Grill Pro Charcoal Smoker For my graduation my parents bought me a smoker.  It took me some time to decide which one I wanted and whether or not I wanted charcoal, electric or propane but I finally decided on a cheap charcoal  model I picked up from Menards.  I didn’t want to go for a big extravagant smoker when I tend to sometimes have A.D.D and go through many short-lived phases.  I told myself that if I played with this smoker enough then I can buy a new pretty one next summer.  I did my research and everything pointed to charcoal so I needed to be the best and I got me a charcoal smoker!  It has been my best friend all summer long!  I have smoked a lot of pork and experimented with some beef but I never had moved onto poultry.  So this is where the adventure begins!

I had seen a recipe in a grilling magazine I had picked up for a turkey breast that was stuffed with sausage and figs.  I knew I really wanted to make it but on the other hand I really was eager to smoke poultry more than I wanted to grill it.  Then I had a revelation – I never follow recipes.  Why should I be restricted from smoking this?  I went out an bought a hefty turkey breast, some fresh figs and some mild Italian sausage.  Today I woke up ready and eager to get outside to my smoker.  I figured a smarter idea would be to look up some tips about smoking turkey.  I did a face palm when I noticed every site mentioned I should have brined it first.  Why didn’t I think of that? Oh well you live and learn right?  I did create a brine and let my turkey sit in the fridge for about 3-4 hours.  I did a concoction of cherry juice, simply apple, brown sugar, canning salt, white pepper and ginger.  I soaked some apple wood chips and waited patiently crossing my fingers that the minimal amount of brining would still result in a moist turkey breast.

A few hours later I sauteed off some onions along with the bulk sausage while re-hydrating my figs in        some simply apple.  I chopped up the figs pretty fine and added to the onions and sausage to let the flavors get all happy.  The recipe didn’t call for anything to bind this mixture together so I tossed some panko bread crumbs in the juices rendered from the sausage and added two eggs and combined it with the sausage mixture.  I proceeded to stuff the turkey breast with the mixture and tied it closed with some twine.  I started up some coals and waited for my smoker to get an internal temperate of 300º.  For those of you with a charcoal/liquid smoker – I did not use the water pan since using that makes your smoker stay between 225-250º.  Taking out the water pan allows it to go to a higher temp.  I then added the turkey to the top rack and let it go!

I did leave the skin on the turkey which i’m very glad I did because it basted my turkey during the 3 hours it was in the smoker.  I was concerned about leaving the water tray out since it tends to help with keeping the meat moist but the skin did just as good of a job.  After an hour and a half I turned the breast over for even cooking.  After three hours I took the turkey out and wrapped it in foil to let it rest for about 20 minutes.  This was the end result.


It was so moist and delicious.  I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did.  When it comes to lunch meats I tend to stray away from smoked turkey and chicken.  This turkey was so tasty that I would definitely make it again but maybe in a more natural way and not stuffed with sausage.  Don’t get me wrong, sausage is my favorite thing in the world but sometimes things don’t need to be stuffed with sausage to be tasty.