Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jasmine’s on the Bayou

In the absence of anything interesting happening in my kitchen I thought I would share what is happening in the kitchen of others. I went out to lunch with family the other day to a little spot that was rumored to make some good sandwiches.

Jasmine’s on the Bayou is located at 6010 Jones Creek in a little strip plaza. It’s easy enough to find but you have to wonder about the name as there isn’t a bayou anywhere in sight. We pulled up and a chalkboard on the sidewalk gave the special of the day as speckled trout with a crabmeat stuffing topped with a tasso cream sauce. Yeah, I am definitely not in Texas anymore.

The place is small; I am guessing it could seat thirty at the most. The d├ęcor was nothing special but the music was good and the staff was friendly. I opted not to get the special just so I could try a smattering of other things on the menu. I did not go exotic and tried a cup of gumbo, a side of red beans and rice and a serving of boudin balls with a side of rocket sauce. All were very good and from what I could tell everything else ordered by our table was equally satisfactory.

I was half way through my lunch when I noticed how radically my diet has changed in the short time I have been here. I have historically been a big protein eater with a few veggies thrown in to ease my conscious. I am pretty neutral on carbs..take ‘em or leave ‘em, I really don’t give them much thought. But then I look down at my lunch and realize that what I am eating is rice served three ways. Fried in the boudin balls, served with a seasoned sausage broth in the gumbo and smothered with beans in my last dish. Change is good I guess.

Anyhow…I highly recommend Jasmine’s on the Bayou as a great lunch spot. Good food, reasonable prices and definitely a local joint. Closed on Sundays.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Busted flat in Baton Rouge…

My username of “dmsintexas” is now pretty pointless. We have relocated to Baton Rouge, La and are planting new roots. We are staying with family while we house hunt and I am having the fun yet frustrating experience of cooking out of someone else’s kitchen.

For now I am enjoying the novelty of learning new supermarkets. It’s funny how hard it is to find the tortillas in this town.

I’ve been eating quite a bit of Catfish Atchafalaya, a catfish fillet smothered in a seafood gravy served on a bed of rice. The shrimp po-boys have also been excellent. The local Albertson’s has been running a sale on basa fillets. My understanding is that this is an imported saltwater catfish. They have been grilling up great and I can see myself eating quite a few of these in the near future.

No serious barbequing or sausage making for a few months while my equipment is in storage. For now I plan on enjoying sampling the local favorites.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eating the bunny

I recently found a local source of young rabbits and have been enjoying them greatly. The folks over at Rab Ranch started raising rabbits this spring and offer them dressed at $8 per rabbit.

One of my problems with the whole "eat local" thing is the massive price differences. For me to get a pastured chicken I pretty much have to drive 70 miles to a farmers market and pay $12 for a bird. That's just too much of an activation energy for me when I can drive 5 minutes to Kroger and get a bird for $4. I want to support local producers but I have a hard time paying triple the price. Yes, I know, if I was really committed that extra money wouldn't matter. I have enough income that the extra $8 doesn't impact my quality of living. Well, I don't care...paying triple is just too damn much.

So I was delighted to find a local source of rabbit that was offering their product at a very reasonable price. Sure, I get less protein on a local rabbit than on a Kroger chicken but it is a differential that I don't mind.

Enough rambling.....I have been eating fried rabbit, grilled rabbit and rabbit stewed in cream gravy. All were excellent. My daughter thinks the rabbit in cream gravy was chicken and I am not going to let her think otherwise. No pictures on this; sometimes you get to take pictures and sometimes you just have to eat.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Perfect Present

Isn't it great when someone picks you up one of those "perfect presents"? My brother got me this lovely salt and pepper set a little while ago. I guess nobody really knows you like your family.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Total Failure

This weekend I ruined a perfectly good batch of sausage by trying to be clever. Call it the just reward for the sin of Pride. I had nailed this batch. My test patty tasted exactly like I wanted and was flat out delicious. I had formed the sausages into extremely nice individual sized ropes that were going to make a beautiful presentation. I was going to be bragging about this sausage; “Look at me, look at what I can do!” And so the Lord says, “Well clever little man, let’s make you a little too clever.”

I smoke my sausage on an 18 inch Weber Smokey Mountain bullet. The WSM is awesome by every single measure except for surface area. You can only fit so much meat on an 18 inch grate and sometimes that just isn’t enough. When I am working with ropes of sausage they typically weigh about a pound and I can only fit two at a time on the grate. This means I have to do multiple batches which takes a 2-3 hour process and stretches it out to 6-8 hours. I decided to eliminate this headache by not using the grate. I bought an 18 inch length of a 3/16” stainless steel rod and hung all of my ropes from the rod. I rested the rod on the tabs that the top grate rests on so that all of the sausage was hanging just below the top grate. I had made my ropes much smaller than usual so their bottoms would hang several inches above the bottom grate and water pan. I then placed a thermometer into a sausage link and placed the single link on the top grate. I fired up the smoker and let it run gentle for a few hours until the sausage on the top grate read 168F (yep, I overcooked it…got distracted with other stuff).

I brought my rod of sausage into the kitchen to cool while I munched on the link that I had used to monitor temperature. I took a few pictures and was quite smug with my cleverness. It wasn’t until a few hours later when I went to slice some up for my neighbor that I realized just how bad I had screwed up.

There is a temperature gradient in the WSM and the magnitude and DIRECTION of the gradient are dictated by how you use the water pan. Some people run the water pan empty, some fill it with water, some fill it with sand and cover with foil….there are ~20 different variations and each gives a different operating characteristic. There are no right or wrong answers to the water pan question, just different approaches. My approach is to place a 16 inch heavy ceramic saucer in the pan. One result of this approach, which I had forgotten, is that the resulting temperature gradient is inverted. The temperature a few inches away from my water pan is actually lower than the temperature at my top grate. Significantly lower. The end result is that my hanging sausages were overcooked at the top (farthest from the fire) and were still raw at the bottom of the rope (closest to the water pan). Judging on the different degrees of doneness in my sausage I am going to estimate that they were exposed to a 30-50 degree temperature gradient while being smoked.

Time to be humble again. I obviously still have much to learn.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I'm playing with andouille sausage..I won't claim it to be perfect but it is pretty darn good.
2387 g pork butt
36 g salt
10g black pepper
4 g paprika
2 g red pepper flakes
2 g thyme
100 g diced garlic (5 Tbls)
1 tsp cure #1
The pork was cut to roughly 1 inch cubes, mixed with the seasonings and cure and rested in the fridge for two days. I turned the mixture every 12 hours or so.
I diced about a quarter of the pork and ground the rest. The ground pork was mixed with 1/2 cup ice water for a couple minutes with the stand mixer and then the diced pork was folded in. I got four good ropes of sausage as well as two nice sized links. I grilled the links with some pecan wood thrown on the coals to get the great smoke color. The ropes with be treated with a little more care. I'll slowly smoke them for ~4-5 hours to get the true smoke flavor andouille requires.
This does not have as much red pepper as most andouille recipes as I wanted my family to be able to enjoy it. Still, it's a pretty good sausage.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fresh Sausages

I am getting back into fresh sausages and am having a pretty good time. My recipe framework is pretty standard; 1.5% salt and 1% other seasonings. I am playing around with binders (milk powder, breadcrumbs) at a 3% level but have not made up my mind if they are worth adding or not. For this batch I went with:

2038 grams pork butt
30 grams kosher salt
10 grams black pepper
7 grams granulated garlic
3 grams fresh rosemary
60 grams breadcrumbs
1/2 cup ice water

The pork went through the grinder then was mixed with the seasonings and stuffed into hog casings. One thing I am certain about is that I love working with hog casings and do not care for collagen. You cannot get the collagen casings to curl and they do not hold a twist when linking, they must be tied. Pig guts rule!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A first class outfit.

This post is a big, “Thank you!” to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service.

A few weekends ago they sponsored a youth feral hog hunt at the Nannie Stringfellow Wildlife Management Area. I was able to attend with my boy and was thrilled with what the Parks and wildlife department made available.

There were roughly 6000 acres of land made available for hunting that they split into 19 compartments. In each compartment they provided a 5x5 enclosed box blind that was located along working paths and game trails. The parks department had heavily baited the areas around the blinds a week in advance to get the hogs used to coming into the kill zones.

It had been raining heavily the week before and much of the land was either marshy or a mud pit. I do not have an ATV and was dreading the mile hike through the mud and slop to get to our blind. “No problem” they said, and drove us out on their ATVs. They dropped us off just steps away from our blind then gave us a phone number to call as soon as we were ready to leave so they would know when to come and pick us up.

For hunters that killed hogs they would drive out and help load the animals onto an ATV and bring it back to the cleaning station. The cleaning station had at least six gambrels mounted from beams under the covered pavilion. There was a fresh water hose for cleaning as well as a front end loader to dispose of the carcasses.

I do not want to give the impression of deluxe accommodations, wasteful spending, etc. There was not much out there….these guys are hoping to get a parking lot in a year or two instead of having to slog through a mud filled path every day. There wasn’t much but what was there was just right. I could not have asked for anything nicer and all it cost me was the $48 public hunt permit that I had bought for dove hunting late last year.

As far as the actual hunt itself, well, it was quality time spent with The Boy. We had a big time eating jerky, peeing in plastic bottles and playing Rock Paper Scissors. We saw plenty of deer, squirrels and birds but the hogs were scarce. After 14 hours of sitting in blinds over the course of two days we finally had a sow come in with dusk falling fast on the last evening of the hunt. We saw her at 250 yards out and patiently waited until she was ~140 yards. The boy took the shot and missed: too little light, too far a shot and needs more practice at the range. Let’s call it a teaching moment.

I’ll line up another hunt soon. Here piggy, piggy, piggy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Venison Pastrami

Thank you, Mr. Deer. Thank you very much.

The recipe is pretty straightforward; per pound of meat make a cure of:

1 Tbs Morton Tenderquick

1 Tbs brown sugar

1/2 Tbs black pepper

Apply the cure to the meat and let sit in the fridge for 3-5 days depending upon the thickness of the meat. This was a roast from the hind leg that weighed in at 2 lbs. After the roast cures let it soak in water for ~1 hour then dry with paper towels. Apply a rub of black pepper and cook to an internal temp of 160. Wrap tightly in foil and let rest for ~30 minutes.
I've seen pastrami recipes that called for coriander in the rub and some that called for juniper berries. I like things simple so I stuck with pepper.
Pretty damn delicious. Very juicy, flavorful....it has me questioning why so many hunters I talk to keep the back straps and have everything else ground into summer sausage.

Salt and Time and Lemons

We were going to have a hard freeze here on the Gulf Coast and the plants were going to take a beating. Step one in freeze prep is to salvage what fruit you can. So out I went with the girl and we picked two large bags of oranges and four monster bags of lemons.
Oranges are not a problem. You can make orange juice, eat a bunch and send the large pretty ones over to neighbors as belated Christmas gifts. But what the heck are you to do with four monster bags of Meyer lemons? One thing is for sure, the kids will learn to either love or hate lemon pudding.
Another trick is to preserve the lemons in salt. The preparation is pretty straightforward. First you clean and sterilize your containers; I use scalding water and Five Star San. After the containers are clean put ~2 tablespoons of salt across the bottom. Next you wash and scrub the lemons to get off all the bird poop. Quarter the lemons but leave them intact at the base. Pour massive quantities of salt into the cuts and place the lemons into the containers. You should not be dainty. Really press the lemons in there and cram them together. It is important that the lemons are covered in lemon juice and all the pressing and squeezing helps. After the lemons are packed I used the juice of extra lemons to completely cover then topped with another tablespoon of salt. These guys will hang out in the fridge for a few months before I pop them open and start playing.
The only time I have encountered preserved lemons is in a Moroccan chicken and olive dish. I will be scouring the internet in search of more uses. Who knows, maybe I should just drive them up to Austin and drop them off in some guy's salumi shop.