Monday, October 31, 2011

moose t-bone au poivre

while reading a book called 'cleaving', my interest in butchering has increased. i was wondering just the other day about how difficult it would be to break down a carcass into quarters, and then break it down from there. i've done basic butchering in culinary school and in restaurants, but i want to experience the whole deal from start to finish, which i'm sure i'll have the opportunity to partake in during the future hunting of deer season.

on a smaller scale, i had a fantastic moose t-bone steak last night. the t-bone and porterhouse are steaks of beef (or moose in my case), cut from the short loin and including a t-shaped bone with meat on each side; the larger is a strip steak and the smaller a tenderloin steak. porterhouse steaks are cut from the rear end of the short loin and include more tenderloin, while t-bone steaks are cut from farther forward and contain less. if you think about it on the human body, which may sound grim, but let's face it- a carcass is a carcass right?..anyway, it would be the lower back area surrounding the vertebrae. obviously it's a bit different on a large beast, but just to give you an, this was one great steak! it was almost fork tender and the flavors were more like an 'earthy'- meaty flavor rather than a 'gamey' flavor associated with game meat. i was immediately thankful, for these steaks were a gift, and a gift of meat is just really fun!

my only task in the preparation of these steaks was to make an accommodating sauce or compound butter. we decided that mushrooms should play a role too, so i made a twist on a traditional french preparation called steak au poivre. traditionally this preparation would have you loosely coating your steak with cracked peppercorns, and searing it in a hot pan at a high temperature to create a sort of peppercorn crust. a pan sauce made with cognac, heavy cream, and pan-scrapings would be served with the steak. dijon mustard and butter are common ingredients in the sauce as well. here's how my version went down. since we were grilling the steaks, i'd have no pan-scrapings to help flavor the sauce, so i used the mushrooms. i halved the mushrooms, left them whole if they were on the small side, so they'd be substantial. i gave them a saute in a little butter and olive oil. i then added a few glugs of brandy, 1 hefty tablespoon of stone ground mustard and allowed the brandy and mushroom liquids to cook down and to also burn off the alcohol. i then added a few dollops of butter and several grinds of cracked pepper, and allowed it to melt and meld with the pan reduction. what i was left with was a tangy, earthy, creamy sauce which pooled around the mushrooms and was heavenly with the grilled steaks!

happy hunting and a toast to the animals in which we eat! belly up!

Monday, October 17, 2011

montana & coffee

vacation. oh how they do such wonders! our exotic destination for this trip was montana. and oh how montana delivers! most of our time was spent in and around yellowstone national park. as our nations first national park, there is a lot of history embedded in the culture and landscape. there were geysers, snow- capped mountains, frosty rivers, and herds of bison meandering throughout everyday. i spent a lot of time just staring out across the vast and diverse landscape. golden wheat fields expanding to the horizon where they were met by magnificent mountains. trout fishermen casting their flys in those ripples that lay near the overhanging marsh grasses. purple asters peeking through inches of snow. roaming steers lazily grazing. bull elks standing firm around their herds. prairie dogs foolishly parading the prairie.

it has been almost a decade since i last ventured around montana. it seemed very peaceful this time of year, as though local residents were preparing to settle in for the long and unforgiving winter that is soon to follow this prolonged fall, much like us here in grand marais. i really like traveling during the off-seasons, or when peak tourist season is coming to a close. shop keepers tend to be a bit more relaxed, and don't mind telling you where the trout are biting, or their funniest stories. i shared micro-brews, laughs, and of oddly enough, my favorite culinary memory has to do with the morning mocha that was brought to us by mike freed. mike is 70, and has been backpacking across the nation for about 15 years. he stops then and again to catch up with his family and friends at his home in hawaii, hastings, or hovland, and to to do a little fishing here and there. these morning mocha's were such a treat. such a warm, welcoming way to start the day. mike also likes maps, and so as we sipped our mocha's we were usually swooning over maps, deciphering which mountain passes were passable and which were not due to snow and road closings. we planned relentlessly, going over trails, trying to locate desolate logging roads and sections of the continental divide trail. my focus was typically diverted by chocolate laced espresso.

it's not an exaggeration to say that our trip was fueled by coffee. there was a lot of traveling and adventuring happening in a weeks worth of time, so it's only natural that coffee would come into play. coffee is my one addiction. i drink it everyday, throughout the day. i'm okay with that. i'm usually just a coffee with cream kind of gal. enough cream so as the color of my coffee resembles the color of a jersey cow. to feed my increasing coffee addiction, i found myself huddled over an msr pocket rocket, eagerly watching water come to a boil. i then had my one cup reusable coffee filter full of fragrant, ground coffee. i did this through wind, snow, and sunshine. the little camp stove proved itself again and again. we also visited a serious number of espresso joints. mike has a way with finding these great quaint coffee shops and eateries. he would wake just before dawn and wander off to the nearest source of coffee, long before anyone else awoke. he always returned bearing gifts of mocha and lattes.

i seek out co-ops when i'm traveling. i spent some time in billings montana, where they have a great co-op with a great coffee selection. comparative to other co-ops, our very own co-op pulls it's weight with it's coffee selection. what i am looking for in a coffee selection is variations of roasts and if there is regional coffee offered. cook county whole foods co-op offers both. our regional coffee offerings are supplied by peace coffee which is roasted in minneapolis. peace coffee does a great job with their roasting, and their mission statement is heartwarming. you can check out their website, and get all of the details. here's a favorites list of coffee beans from the co-op:

dark roasts: Peace Coffee- Guatemalan Dark.
this is a dark roast coffee with low acidity. some flavor notes; dark chocolate, caramelized cherry, anise, smoke, bittersweet chocolate

Equal Exchange- Love Buzz.
this is a french and full city roast coffee. some flavor notes; sweet velvety layers of chocolate brownie, caramel corn, malt, and toffee

medium roasts: Peace coffee- Sumatran.
this is a darker roast coffee with low acidity. some flavor notes; tobacco, dark chocolate, black pepper, fresh figs

Equal Exchange- Mind, Body, and Soul
this is a medium and Vienna roast coffee. some flavor notes include; smooth, and creamy balanced blend that has hints of almond, malt, and dark chocolate

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple-Plum Butter

i am scurrying around a bit now as i plan for a trip to Montana. am overnight travel on a train will be our means of transportation. i've never traveled that distance on a train before so i'm very excited. a friend is currently traveling by train now to meet us in Minneapolis, to travel with us on our journey. he attended a wine and cheese tasting last night on the train! my daughter has already decided to name the train 'Thomas', and is sure that our final destination is strawberry shortcake's house, with a dinosaur museum or two thrown in for fun. so it's pack, re-pack, shuffle things, and then pack again. amidst the chaos of our household, i've also been planning for a class i'll be teaching on thursday. the class is 'canning up the fall harvest'. after several conversations with folks in and out of the co-op, i've learned that not everyone knows what to do with their garden bounties. this class will offer up ideas and we'll go through the process of canning. unfortunately, the class is full, so maybe we'll offer this class again in november. i'm posting a simple recipe for apple-plum butter from the preserving the harvest cookbook that we have here at the co-op. it seems that both apples and plums are plentiful now, and their flavors pair nicely together. belly up!!

Apple-Plum Butter

2 1/2 pounds (about 15 medium) plums, washed and pitted
1 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1. in a covered 3- quart saucepan, combine the plums, 1/2 cup of the water, and 1/4 cup of the lemon juice. cook over medium-high heat until the plums are soft, about 20 minutes.

2. meanwhile, in another 3- quart saucepan, combine the apples, the remaining water, and the remaining lemon juice. cook over medium- high heat until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

3. let both mixtures cool slightly; combine in a blender of food processor and puree.

4. pour mixture into a heavy 8-quart flameproof roasting pan along with the sugar, spices, and salt.

5. preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

6. cook on top of the stove over medium heat until all of the sugar dissolves.

7. transfer the roasting pan to the oven.

8. bake uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. this will take 1-3 hours.

9. test for doneness by spooning some onto a plate. if no liquid appears on the edges, it is ready.

10. ladle into sterile jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. cap and seal.

11. process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.