Monday, May 30, 2011

Chicken Sausage

I resisted this challenge because I really don't like chicken sausage.  It's not that it doesn't taste good; rather, when it comes to sausage I want anything but chicken and fish.  If I had found someone reasonable duck, I would have made duck sausage.  If I had wild turkey, or grouse, or pheasant, I would have made that.  Actually, my favorite is pork sausage (except for my newest addiction, Merguez).  But chicken, to me, is just not something to be made into sausage.  I don't really like it ground into meatballs or patties either.  Maybe it's the delicacy of the meat and when it comes to sausage, I like it heavier in fat and flavor in the mouth.  I do, however, like chicken as forcemeat because there it retains its more delicate flavor.  However, I fulfilled my responsibility and I discovered that chicken sausage is not so bad when it's homemade.

I began small, with only two pounds of chicken thighs.  I had fun with the de-boning.  Yeah, thighs are easy-peasy, but I watched this video on youtube by some guy who looked like he was half asleep but then de-boned that thigh perfectly in just seconds.  I figured after about another 500 thighs I might be half good.

Then, I ground the chicken.  The most negative aspect about making chicken sausage is that every time I touched the bloody chicken I had to wash my hands again for another step in the process.  I think I spent more time washing my hands and anything else that had contact with the chicken than with the sausage process itself.  Anyway, grinding was a breeze.  It yielded a uniform small and sticky grind that absorbed the spices well.
Then came the flavorings.  I didn't have fresh basil (like the Charcuterie recipe) and I really don't like dried basil.  I was in the mood for toasted fennel so I toasted two teaspoons, which I then ground in the mortar.  I added cracked hot pepper, salt, thyme, lots of finely diced raw garlic, some chopped, sun-dried tomato, and some orange zest.  I liked the idea of the orange zest, but I think it didn't do as well in a sausage as it does in a liquid.  My husband, however, thought it was very good.  For a liquid, I added half dry white wine and half ice water. 

Stuffing was a problem.  It really needed smooth and steady stuffing which is not easy for one person, especially with that sticky, viscous ground chicken.  I ended up holding the sausage casing with one hand and stuffing the KA stuffer with another, but at speed #4, it all seemed to work.  The sausage turned out just a bit thick.  However, it tasted really good.

I meant to add some pork back fat instead of using the chicken skin, but having forgot to defrost it, I just used the chicken skin.  Next time, I would definitely use the pork.  Since my spices came from the Proven├žal area of France, I felt the end flavor was pretty good.  And having worked with all that sticky ground chicken, I think I'm ready for some emulsified sausage.  Weisswurst, here I come!

Chicken Sausage on Punk Domestics

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grinding Sausage

Sausage and peppers

I made Charcuterie's smoked andouille recipe because I was curious about how it would turn out.  For me, andouille means paprika because it provides not just taste but also that red color.  Noticing that this recipe did not call for paprika, I was intrigued.  The book says that the sausage is " flavorful you can eat it with no accompaniments" so I decided to try it that way and it is tasty but not what I expected of an andouille recipe.  Maybe the smoking provides more of my expected andouille flavor but even though I've stuffed some of it I have not yet had time to smoke it.  However, the fatty grind did become dinner.  I made it into little meatballs, which I sauteed in oil.  After cooking, I removed them, took out any burnt bits, put in some fresh oil and added my peppers and onions, with salt, thyme, and red pepper.  After the veggies softened, I removed them, made a dark roux, added some of my tomato passata and water, then put the veggies and meatballs back in the pan.  Scrumptious!  So, I served it over egg noodles.  Easy-peasy!

Part of the grinding process involves taste and that's what I really wanted to get right in this challenge.  As noted in my previous post I borrowed recipes freely from others.  I never really realized that I had many similar recipes in my own head because of what I add to meatballs, meatloaves, risottos, soups, stews, etc..  With that knowledge in mind, I have become quite a fixture at my local butcher and so far they've only failed me when it came to caul fat.   However, they do provide elk, venison, pork, and beef.  And they usually kill and cut the local moose, bear, and yak as well.  I'm not really into eating bear.  Yak, I love.  It's some of the best meat I've every tasted. 

  I had ground my own meat on a number of occasions and have experimented with making my own  meatballs, venison and lamb terrines, and various other kinds of meatballs/meatloaves with various grindings of the meat plus experimental additions like various kinds of cheeses.  However, I had never tried stuffing sausage casings before so I attempted this time to get the grind just right for that particular kind of product.

The grinding process went well with no particular problems or difficulties.  Then, jumping ahead of the game, I decided to stuff my several different kinds of sausage all in one sitting.  I noticed towards the end that I should have stopped for a bit, put my equipment in ice water, and then continued because the sausage began to taste a bit dry and crumbly.  Because I taste everything (isn't that part of the fun?) I noticed it quickly so I could stop in time to prevent further error.

Although I slid over the mark from just grinding into stuffing, I like the idea of having my sausage stuffed because of all the recipes I can make with already stuffed sausage.  I can just heat it on the grill, or boil it in liquid.  I can add it easily to a choucroute recipe.  I can slice the sausage for an hors d'oeuvres or a tapas (chorizo in red wine).  And, I can take it out of the casing and use it ground.

I'm happy the next challenge is stuffing because I love sausage!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sausage, Sausage, And More Sausage

Four different fresh sausage
I am wearing a huge smile on my face.  Just the sight of those beautiful sausages makes me happy, brightens my day, and makes my taste buds tingle.  Top left is my fennel sausage; underneath, garlic sausage; in the middle, Italian sweet sausage; and both those babies on the right are Merguez sausages.  The casings for the Merguez had a hole so I had to stop, tie off, and finish with a smaller sausage.

This is my first time making sausage.  I never knew it could be so easy.  Actually, stuffing them, with a Kitchen Aid, is not easy without help.  That is one lesson I learned.  It's difficult trying to guide the sausage casing with one hand while stuffing in the meat with the other hand.  Also, pushing the meat into the sausage stuffer has to be somewhat continuous or the sausage becomes lumpy and filled with air pockets.  Of course, maybe that problem is related to oiling the worm.

Another lesson learned is that there is a very good reason for oiling the worm well, because otherwise the meat sticks to it, which means stopping and washing everything in the middle of making sausage or building my own arm muscles by forcing more meat to go through the stuffer.  Well, I have another batch of meat ready to go so I'll see if I learned my lessons.

Keeping the casing in lukewarm water before threading it onto the stuffer also helps. Otherwise, it's hard work and provides potential for the casing to tear.  So, having someone to help stuff the sausage, oiling the worm, and keeping the casings wet were my three most important lessons.  They were techniques I had never known before.

As for the recipes, well, I borrowed freely and must give proper due to the providers.  So far my favorite recipe is from Mrs. Wheelbarrow whose Merguez sausage recipe is soooo goooood!  She mentioned the merguez in this month's grinding challenge, but I first saw her recipe as a Food52 winner.  After seeing the comments that others left, I decided not to change anything.  Mrs. Wheelbarrow's spice mixture is incredible and I'm sure it will find its way into other dishes.  I don't know what harissa she uses, but I had some DEA harissa that I had picked up at The Basque Market on a trip to Boise.  They don't seem to have it in their online store but I've noticed that Amazon carries it.

Well, I did kind of change one thing.  I added about 1/3 c. of my pork shoulder butt to the lamb because I didn't want to end up with dry sausage.  I only had ground lamb left in my freezer because we had eaten all the lamb shoulder and I wasn't sure of the fat content, so, in went the pork.  In order to honor Moroccan tradition, I probably should have added oil or maybe duck fat in respect for the pork taboo.  Impulsively, however, I threw in the pork.  And to make it worse, I did it again in the second batch I have waiting to be ground.  I'm not sure what a good pork alternative would be.  I'm not crazy about lamb fat - it just isn't tasty. 

I borrowed the Italian sweet sausage and the garlic sausage recipes from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie.  I did add a bit more hot pepper to the Italian sausage recipe, and, after frying a taste sample of the garlic sausage, decided to throw in some garlic granules in order to satisfy my garlic cravings.  Both of these are very good but next time I would toast and grind the fennel for the Italian sausage and double the amount of garlic for the garlic sausage.

Finally, the fennel sausage recipe came from Joyce Goldstein's The Mediterranean Kitchen.  This recipe called for toasting the fennel and it was delicious in the sausage!  She also has recipes in there for other sausages including Portuguese Linguisa, Greek Loukanika, Spanish Chorizo, and Calabrese Lucanica.  Wow, the Lucanica combines both pork and lamb!  I have found a match that I have to try!  I can see this is going to be the summer of sausage.