Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bambi Butcher Blog

WARNING: Graphic images and information to follow

This is the promised blog resulting from my hunting trip last week. I went with my buddies Dan and Mike. Unfortunately, we were a week late for bucks, which was the majority of what we saw all day. However, we did happen across a couple does right at the end of the day. From about 75-80 yards out, I bagged a 2-2.5 year old doe with the Remington .270 that Summer's parents gave me for Christmas - thanks Larry and Terri!

We loaded the ol girl on the Mule (off-road golf cart, not donkey-horse hybrid) and headed to the cutting room. Dan has a suh-weet set up out at his place. There's a concrete slab with an awning that has a wench hanging from the ceiling. Why? We sawed the legs below the knees and wenched the deer up off the ground. From there, dressing, gutting, and skinning the deer was a breeze. Dan did the lion's share of the work, but I get in there for some of it. There's a HUGE difference in cleaning a deer when you cut the stomach and when you don't. Don't. After getting it all clean, we hung it in the walk-in for 5 days.


Look how beautifully lean that piece of meat is. You can also see the exit wound there.

Here's a great view of the shot. It went in through rib #4, through the lung, the heart, the other lung, and out rib #5. A really great shot for a first-timer. Also, note how clean our gut job was.

On Friday, we butchered it. Dan quartered it (hips and rear legs first, then front legs individually). Next, we took the backstraps and tenderloins. Most of the rib cage was bloodshot - that's where the bullet explodes, sending fragments of bullet and bone through out, blasting the meat. All this needs to be removed and discarded. Some of the rib meat was salvageable for sausage. Next, I watched Dan break down one of the back legs, and I repeated. We reserved the two bottom rounds and one top round for the dinner party from 5Courses+5Beers+5Wines. The rest became either cutlets - which made some of the best chicken fried steaks ever - or trim for sausage. The front legs were also a bit bloodshot, which became sausage material as well. Overall, it was a blast breaking down the deer. There's something greatly satisfying about eating something that you took from start to finish.


So I took 2.5 pounds of the trim (non-backstrap, tenderloin, or leg roasts), .5 pound of bacon (for fat, smoke, and texture), 2 pounds of pork butt, garlic, chipotles, cayenne, and salt, ground it, mixed it, and stuffed it. The colors on this thing are great. The dark is the venison, the light is the bacon, the in-between is glorious pork. The tester was tasty, and I'm going to roast a couple off tonight with dinner.

Not sure what my next culinary quest is, but it should be a good one. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 16, 2012


My buddy Mike Beech (of Strength and Beer) and I have been talking for a while about doing a coursed out meal with wine and/or beer pairings. We got the opportunity to do just that this weekend at a friends' house warming party.

SIDEBAR: As mentioned in "Red Wine Garlic Sausage", I did get a chance to take down my own venison last Sunday, and I was successful! I got a 2-2.5 yr old doe from 75-80 yards out. What an intense experience. I cannot wait to get out for more. I'll do a blog about just the deer later, but I bring it up because it was the 4th course.

So in this particular case, I came up with the menu first. I didn't really want a "theme" so much as I wanted to feature several different techniques. Once the menu was in place, Mike spent a couple weeks tasting beers and wines to match each course. I know right? Poor Mike.

And awaaaaayyyy we go!

Course #1: Herbed Spring Mix with Goat Cheese, Almonds, Orange
Beer #1: Ommegang Rouge, Flanders Red Ale, Cooperstown, NY
Wine #1: Verdemar Albariño, 2009, Riaz Baixas, Spain

You may remember this salad from the classic "Crevettes L'Orange", except that I have replaced the gorgonzola with goat cheese. The goat cheese is much more mild. The almonds were toasted slices. The orange was supremed. The dressing was minced shallot, fresh squeezed orange juice, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper shaken in an old spaghetti sauce jar - this results in a superior emulsification of the ingredients.

Mike killed it on the beer pairing here. The interesting part about the beer in this course was the amount of acid it had. It really went perfectly with such a tart salad. The wine was really good, but wasn't quite there with the salad. It wasn't a bad pairing or anything, just not perfect.

Course #2: Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
Beer #2: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, India Pale Ale, Milton, DE
Wine #2: Chateau Routas Rosé, 2010, Provence, France

Honestly, this was my first gumbo. I can't believe that's true, but it is. Aside from not thickening up as much as I wanted, it was really good. I sautéed "the Holy Trinity" of celery, onions, and green bells and threw that in the crockpot. I added okra, garlic, tomatoes, andouille, chicken thighs (roasted in the oven), stock, roux (of which I did not add enough), thyme and cayenne. That simmered all day. Right before we left, I seasoned it with salt and added Louisiana Hot Sauce.

The IPA really accentuated the heat of this gumbo and was, again, a perfect pair. The rosé was a really nice, serious rosé, and went well with the gumbo. Again, we felt this pairing wasn't quite perfect.

Course #3: Pork Belly, Confit Tomato, Frisée
Beer #3: NXNW Northern Light, Pilsner, Austin, TX
Wine #3: Kenwood Pinot Noir, 2010, Sonoma County, CA

This course was near and dear to my heart, because it was the pork course. I braised a piece of pork belly for 1.5 hours in the ol Dutch oven, after searing it off and adding a little stock. I reduced the remaining liquid with brown sugar and bourbon to a glaze. The "confit tomato" was cherry tomatoes that had been cooked on low in extra virgin olive oil, duck fat, thyme, and garlic for an hour. The frisée was there for texture and contrast. When we were ready for this course, I put the belly under the broiler to crisp the fat on top, sliced it, glazed it, and ate it. The tomatoes came out WAY more tart than sweet - most likely a result of the lack of ripeness. But, as always, the belly came through and saved the dish.

I knew I should have taken notes. Sitting here at the computer, writing this blog, I can not remember my exact thoughts on the pairings. I remember that they worked, but no specifics. My head must have been in pork belly mode - it makes you forget things.

Course #4: Venison Leg Roast, Potato Celeriac Purée, Roasted Squash
Beer #4: Chimay Premiére, Belgian Dubbel, Hainut, Belgium
Wine #4: Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Patterson, WA

This course was near and "deer" to my heart. As previously mentioned, this was the deer that I had, only a week prior, actually shot myself. And had butchered the day before. It doesn't get much fresher than that. To get a large enough roast for the party, we tied together the two bottom rounds with a top round in between. Absolutely zero silver skin anywhere and about 99% fat free. I jammed garlic and rosemary between the layers, S&P'd the outside and seared it GBD. I placed thick slices of onion, celery tops, and carrots in the pan, covered those 3/4 with stock and placed the roast on top of that. With the probe thermo inserted, it roasted at 250º for 3 hours until the inside was a PERFECT 140º - and yes, to answer your question. Venison SHOULD be cooked rare to barely medium. Any more, and it's toast.

The purée was another gem. Potatoes and celery root were simmered to tender, then tossed in the processor with heavy cream and butter, salt, duck fat, and an egg yolk. Puréed to silky smooth, then pressed through a sieve, they were delectable.

The squash was just roasted. I was really disappointed in that. It was a throw away side from the get-go. I should have been more creative. It does look purty though.

Wow. This dish killed. The venison had very little gaminess. It was perfectly cooked. And was tender as can be. The purée was delicious as well. They raved.

This was the first course where the wine was an absolute perfect pair. The cab really held up to the intense flavor of the venison, and the super rich purée. The beer was a nice pairing, but I don't know that any beer could have been a better pair than the wine was.

Course #5: Roasted Banana Semifreddo with Peanut Butter Caramel
Beer #5: Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug, Black Lager, Fort Worth, TX
Wine #5: Tott's Gold Medal Cuvée, San Joaquin Valley, CA

I have made this dessert before, but I don't remember blogging it. A semifreddo is an Italian dessert meaning "semi frozen". It's a fluffy, cold combination of an Italian meringue (sugar melted to 240º, drizzled into soft peaked egg whites) and whipped cream. The flavor, in this case, roasted bananas, is added to the meringue before folding in the cream. The dessert is then molded, and frozen. About 10-15 minutes before service, it should be removed to the fridge to soften a bit. I served it with a peanut butter "caramel". I say "caramel" because I didn't have enough white sugar to make a true caramel. So I used a combination of white sugar and brown sugar. I really just melted them, added some cream, then stirred in peanut butter. The poor technique was revealed in both the grittiness of the sauce, and the way the sauce set up instead of staying pourable.

People actually came back for seconds on this one - it was the only one we had second helpings of.

The beer, once again, was killer with this one. Aside from the salad pairing, this was most surprising that a beer could be paired so well. The lager really accentuated the nuttiness of the dessert. The sparkling was great as well, but let's all be honest with ourselves here, bubbles go with anything.

All in all, wow. What a successful endeavor on both our parts. Mike brought the heat big time and the food was pretty killer too, if I do say so myself. We already have a few requests to do some more, and I can't wait. Stay tuned for that Bambi Butcher Blog!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


(not my picture)
We finally did it. I know they've been open for a year, but Greg and I had always promised that we'd go together. It took us this long to actually set a date and follow through with it.

Worth. The. Wait.

We had six people in our party, and our wait was right at an hour and a half. To kill time, we went over to La Feria for a margarita, some chips, and a sampler platter of taquitos, nachos, and jalapeño poppers - a truly great way to destroy your palette right before a great meal, but I digress!

Typically, they recommend that each diner order three entrées because their portions are quite modest. Thanks to our pre-gaming, we left quite content after seven entrées and two desserts between the six of us. Those guys are putting out some beautiful plates of food and they look even more beautiful than they taste (the plates of food, not the guys). I was able to resist the urge to photograph EVERY SINGLE PLATE of food that hit the table as that results in quite a bit of ribbing from fellow diners. I'll do my best to recall the plates. I should have taken a picture of the menu. Anyhow, the reason you're here: 9 plates of food

Grilled Pork Belly
We started with the off-the-menu item of grilled pork belly, grapefruit, peanuts, and brussels sprouts. The belly with the brussels and grapefruit was fantastic. There was a good bit of char on the pork and it contrasted nicely with the acid of the grapefruit. I found the peanuts superfluous. A great start.

Sunchoke Velouté
Next up was the other off-the-menu item: a soup made of sunchoke, with a slow cooked farm egg, salsify, goat cheese, and sunchoke chips. Their was a very pronounced cumin/curry flavor in there somewhere that, to my taste, overwhelmed the rest of the dish. Otherwise, I think it would have been pretty tasty.

Gulf Shrimp
This seemed to be the consensus favorite of the evening. Two, head-on, grilled gulf shrimp over hominy (with which I'm now in love), and a shrimp foam. This is one of the one's I wish I had photoed because with those shrimp heads poking up, it was gorgeous. I happily crunched the meat out of the face of that shrimp *droooool*. It was killer.

Spicy Goat
This plate resulted in mixed reviews, which was unfortunate because it may have been my most anticipated dish. I was hoping for a nice solid piece of goat. What we got was (totally an educated guess here) braised goat formed into a patty and grilled - less than breath-taking, visually. It was served with a cauliflower and a purée of, I believe, cauliflower as well. All together, the bite was good. By itself, the goat lacked a little to be desired. Greg likened it to "moist beef jerky" and I could not disagree with him.

Green lentils on the bottom, seared duck breast, duck confit sprinkled throughout, crispy duck skin, radish, pickled radish, and curry/cumin makes a return visit. This dish was really nicely put together. The flavors all meshed well (aside from that pesky cumin flavor), but I found my piece of duck a tad on the chewy side. Otherwise, tasty.

As a rule, I'm not a big scallop guy. It's got to have a really nice GBD sear on it. This one did. But that wasn't the highlight of the dish. The spicy braised pig cheek was aces. You will see pig cheeks here in the future. The only drag of this dish was the sweet potato purée, which was curried. See a theme here? The raisin relish on the plate was a revelation - who knew pickled (guessing) raisins would be so delicious?

As you can imagine, I was stoked for this dish. I mean, how often do you see brisket on a small plates menu? If you answered, "never", then you'd be correct. I'm just gonna let you take in this picture for a minute.

I know, right? Brisket, over a barbecued baked bean purée (great idea btw), coffee barbecue sauce, smoked potatoes, dehydrated onion rings, sliced cornichons, and frisée tossed in slaw dressing. With such small servings and so many people, the idea is to get a piece of everything on the plate in your mouth, all at once, to create that "perfect bite". Do that on this dish? And it's summertime backyard barbecue in your face. Wow. Really killed it. Was the brisket as good as mine? Shut your face - no way, but the composed plate together was insane. Upscale BBQ achieved.

Beet Cake
Beet cake, tapioca, goats milk ice cream. The cake itself tasted kind of like a spice cake, until beet came and ran all the other flavors out of town, proclaiming its dominance. That was a beet cake, fa sho. The goats milk ice cream was yummy. The tapioca and the rest of the garnish around the plate was interesting, but not really wowing. I appreciate the technique.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
I should just leave you with the photo below, because a simple qwerty keyboard with nothing but letters can't possibly do it justice. I'll try though.

Pumpkin cheesecake, wattle seed cream, pistachio, and rum caramel. It's what every pumpkin cheesecake in the history of man wishes it could be, but knows it never will be. And yea, that's a tempered dark chocolate garnish that says, "chocolate".

All in all, I'm so glad to have finally eaten here. I will DEFINITELY go back when the menu changes and I highly recommend going with four or more people and pre-gaming a bit so you can tour the menu and get your money's worth.

I'm cooking a five course tasting menu for some friends this weekend and my buddy Mike Beech is doing beer and wine pairings for each course. This is going to be a blast and I can't wait to share it with y'all. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Red Wine Garlic Sausage

I LOVE that clip. Every time I made sausage at school or work, all I could here was that song - "Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)" by Jackie Davis. And now I get to hear that tune at home! As you may have seen from fb posts, I received the grinder attachment for my KitchenAid and a sausage stuffer and today, it set out on its maiden voyage!

Cube a nice, fatty, 5# pork butt. Season it with minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Into the freezer to get super cold, but not quite frozen.

Grind it with components that have been placed in the fridge, into a bowl, that is chilled. RULE #1 of making sausage is to keep your meat and equipment as cold as possible. This results in the most desirable consistency in the sausage.

Mix it with the paddle attachment in the KitchenAid. As it mixes, slowly add cold red wine. This adds flavor, moisture, and aids in the emulsion. You could stop at this point and make the sausage into patties or cook it crumbled like ground beef in a spaghetti sauce, like we did last night. OR continue to step 4.

Stuff it in hog casings that have been soaked in room temperature water for ~30 minutes and rinsed.

Eat it.

And hopefully, I'll be taking down my own venison this weekend to turn into more sausage!

A few more experiments with the grinder and stuffer, then I'll graduate to dried and cured sausages. That'll be fun.