Sunday, August 14, 2011

Head Cheese Hash With Eggs

Head cheese hash and eggs

I cannot describe how good this was.  I coarse ground the head cheese with some already cooked and cooled steamed new potatoes (from the Farmer's Market 'cause mine aren't ready yet), chopped raw onion, chopped raw green pepper, and salt and pepper.  The green pepper and onion gave it a bit of a kick that the head cheese and potatoes alone would have missed.  I sautéed the hash in a cast iron skillet until browned on both sides.  The eggs are from my friend, Helen, who knows a lot about farming.  After all, she and her husband have beef, chickens, garden vegetables and flowers, and many acres of alfalfa.  Also, her mother was a Stump Ranch Pioneer.  No wonder these eggs have such a golden yolk that is as tasty as it looks.  Of course, poaching them in water and salt allowed the richness of the yolk to shine.  The roll was homemade and contained fresh herbs.  The hash was so yummy, that I made a enough to store and have during the short, cold days of winter.  Packed into half-pint canning jars, they will keep for several months in the chest freezer.

Head cheese headed for freezer

In another effort to use up all the head cheese before the next Charcutepalooza challenge, I decided to make a potato "gratin."  I found the original recipe for this Swiss inspired gratin in a magazine that has long since disappeared and it never fails to disappoint through years of different cheeses, herbs, and meats, with the potato remaining unchanged.  The proportions depend always on the amount and kind of cooked meat I have at hand in the fridge.  The potatoes are cooked about three quarters of the way through, cooled, and then shredded in the food processor along with some onion, garlic, and cheese (I used Gruyère for this gratin).  I gave a large dice to the head cheese, and along with the herbs, folded it all together.  The original recipe called for rosemary, thyme, savory, and marjoram and I used all of them, fresh from the garden.  I put all but a bit of shredded Gruyère into a buttered casserole dish, added some cream, put the rest of the Gruyère on top, and baked it in a 350F oven until the top was well-browned, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending upon the depth of the casserole.  For me, it's as much a comfort food as mac 'n cheese.  I always serve it with a light, slightly acidic salad.  In this instance, I do confess with going a bit overboard on the feta.  After a month of head cheese, I guess I was just feeling rather cheesy.

Potato gratin with head cheese

Making head cheese has been a real challenge for me; indeed, more like an initiation rite than just a challenge.  From the first, I jumped into this challenge up to my head, well, the pig's head at least.  I not only survived, but have even thrived on the making of head cheese.  Every month I learn something new, and now, I eagerly await the next Charcutepalooza challenge.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dutch Yellow Split Pea Soup With Head Cheese

Dutch yellow split pea soup with head cheese

With one pig's head and four ham hocks, I ended up with a large loaf of head cheese for just two people.  I tried to give some away, but I've had no takers.  Most of them are disgusted by the thought.  Some of them even looked at me in disgust.  But some thought what I made was great - but that didn't mean they wanted to try it.  So, I had to figure out something to do with the head cheese.
Since the head cheese has a flavor that was somewhat like ham, or at least the ham that's left over from making stock, I thought I'd begin with my favorite Dutch soup - yellow split pea.  I have a recipe for it from a book titled Dutch Cooking by Heleen A.M. Halverhout.  It's a very simple recipe, demonstrating that with fresh ingredients, simple can be delicious.  Although the recipe calls for green split peas, I have a love for both yellow and green split peas and since yellows were in the house, they became the split pea of choice.  Naturally it calls for water as well as a pig's trotter and a pig's ear.  I figured that head cheese was an acceptable replacement for both those ingredients.  It also calls for frankfurters, and although I was tempted to use my hot dogs, I had so much head cheese to use that I just made it do double duty.  But the following ingredients are what I think makes it so good.  It includes potatoes, salt, celeriac, bunch celery, leeks, onions, and more salt.  I think it's the double celeries and the double onion family that gives it the most flavor.

I make large batches of soup so that we can freeze some for winter.  I have found that 1 pint glass canning jars with a good inch or more of head room (allowing for expansion), make just enough for one person.  And in the winter, we love soup.  Whether having lunch at home, traveling over to Seattle for a few days, or bringing a lunch with me to school, soup is divine on cold, snowy, wintry days.

Navy bean soup with head cheese

Thinking even more about stocking up for winter, I decided to use more head cheese in a Navy Bean soup.  I love the small, white navy beans and the soup is basically made up from the beans, a mirepoix mix, and this time, head cheese.  It tastes delicious and I even added some of the head cheese gelatin.  Between these two soups and some tomato based and/or veggie soups, I should have soup in the freezer until spring arrives!

Of course, I'm still left with more head cheese, so more ideas for all this head cheese will arrive before August 15th!