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Posts Tagged ‘sausage’

The region of Gascony can be found south of Bordeaux and to the east of the Pay Bas. Although the cuisine is considered rustic, food lovers will know that Gascony is famed for its douceur de vivre (“sweetness of life”) where foie gras (duck liver) and Armagnac (a brandy) are staples.  The medieval towns and villages nestled amidst green rolling hills, the warm and sunny weather, the beautiful landscapes; all contribute to the charm of Gascony as a destination.

Cassoulet is a typical dish from this region of southwest of France.  If you are in the depths of winter right now as you read this, cassoulet is the perfect “comfort food” delivering mouthfuls of tender bites of braised lamb, fat poached duck and succulent sausage alongside savory tomato flavored white beans.

Happily, I am unwilling to find the slightest fault with any of the ingredients, as I truly love them all, but this is not haute cuisine.  Rather it is earthy, hearty food that would appeal to most everyone (vegetarians excepted) on a damp dark cold winter evening with a bold bottle of Vin de Pays from Languedoc or ripe red Bordeaux.   Why a bold red wine?  All the rich proteins, lamb duck and fatty sausage, plus the acidity of the tomatoes will have your taste buds demanding a full body wine.  Get out the big bowl glasses for this meal.

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This was an awesome practical! If you’ve read some of my past posts you’ll know I love to make sausage. In fact, I have purchased all the necessary gadgets to facilitate making countless sausages. For some reason I find it so gratifying to stuff minced meat into intestines. How odd! The lovely shape they make, the delicious melt in your mouth taste and the pure fun of an evening “wurst” fest makes me smile.

Boudin Blanc is a finely minced sausage meat married with cream. The base is minced pork and pork fat and a couple of finely minced shallots sweated in butter. In this recipe we infused whole milk with an orange rind, thyme and bay leaf. This is brought to a simmer for few minutes then set aside to cool.

The pork meat (400 g) and pork fat (150 g) are minced in the food processer, with 6 egg whites to 550 g meat. With the food processor running, 80 ml of cream is added and then the cooled infused milk. Take out of the food processor and mix in the shallots and season with salt & pepper.

It is important to taste the mixture before filling the sausage casing. To do so, place a tsp. of the mixture between pieces of aluminum foil and put directly on a burner to cook through. Taste for the appropriate amount of salt and pepper. Remember that if there is too much to begin with the only way to fix it is to add more meat so add slowly until you are happy.

As all of my gadgets were at home I was faced with stuffing via a pastry bag. I wasn’t sure this would be so easy given previous experiences at La Cuisine Francaise in Amsterdam but my fears were unfounded. The mince on this sausage is quite fine so it pipes quite easily. A regular ground mince would be more difficult to force into the casing but boudin blanc was “facile”!  Well mine was facile – Satoko had a heck of a time with her casing so we ended up piping them one at a time – not so fun.

No fancy gadgets just a pastry bag and a nozzle – yikes!

Three little pink piggies

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The leaves are turning yellow on the trees, it lashed down rain and the wind blew my umbrella inside out.  That to me signaled, it was a good day for soup.   There seems to be nothing more comforting than to come home from work on a rainy stormy night and heat up a bowl of soup – instant comfort.   I like to make soup on Sundays then it’s a no effort meal during the week.  In fact, I think I am going to make it a habit from now until the spring – however long it takes to arrive next year.

Soup is quintessential seasonal eating – go to the market, look for what’s in season and get inspired.  Fresh and tender spring vegetables inspire light flavourful vegetable soups, hot summer weather always leads me straight to gazpacho, the fall to earthy meaty flavors and the winter to comforting legumes. To take advantage of the fall produce, and my need for a meal in a bowl, I decided to cook a spicy sausage, wild mushroom and arborio rice soup.

As it happened my sausage making obsession meant I had homemade pork sausage, spiced with fennel and Johanna’s secret family spice mix, in my freezer.  Combinations of fresh and dried mushrooms provide the fall flavor profile against the base of onion, tomato and chicken stock.  Sausage helps to make this soup dinner in a bowl but could be optional if you happen to be vegetarian.

As the ingredients go into the pot, I always end up tasting and adjusting throughout the cooking stage – which I very much recommend.  In this soup, the earthiness of mushroom and the fennel in the sausage called out for a richer deeper tomato flavor.   A heaping spoonful of tomato paste and the addition of oven tomatoes roasted gave me just the right – very lekker in fact.  Tempted? Sausage, wild mushroom and arborio rice soup

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I recently read a short story that reminded me we need to celebrate life and living much more often.  The story goes a business woman met a new contact in a formal setting.  After their meeting he smiled and suggested it was time for a celebration.  With that, he promptly went to the trunk of his car and produced a bottle of champagne to toast their new acquaintance.  She laughed and exclaimed “Do you always carry champagne in your trunk?”    He, with a big grin exclaimed “Oh yes, life is full of opportunities to celebrate and I don’t want to miss any of them!”

Inspired, I decided to throw a barbeque to celebrate Canada Day with our fellow expats and new Dutch friends.  I was determined to create a Canadian themed menu which was difficult as Canadian food would generally be thought of as poultin, game, and maple syrup.  Not necessarily the easiest of starting points.   After some deliberation I landed on an ambitious, but delicious, menu.

For the appies, mini red and white salads of bocconcini and honey tomatoes laced with olive oil and a sprinkling of espelette pepper; mini gerkins; and beef carpaccio with a horseradish dijon dressing.  The main dish would be maple glazed Salmon and homemade sausage of venison, pork and chicken.  A nontraditional “potato salad” with basil pesto rather than mayo and ratatouille.  And for dessert – good ole rice crispie squares and a surprise addition of naniamo bars, made by my fellow Canadian friends Cheryl and Donna.

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I adore sausage!  I know it’s bad for me as it’s very fattening, but I still love it.  I have a delicious recipe for Tuscan Stew made with mild or spicy Italian pork sausage that is perfect with a robust glass of Barbara or Dolcetto on Friday evening in the winter.   Although I have cooked it a few times over the past couple of years in the Netherlands, I cannot find good, flavorful pork sausage so I had shelved the recipe.  I was delighted to learn the Cordon Bleu in Amsterdam, also known as La Cuisine Francais, was holding a sausage making workshop where I could learn the basic technique from which I could then create my own perfect sausages for my beloved Tuscan Stew.

I invited a couple of friends, my Cordon Bleu classmate Ingrid and our good friend and neighbor MJ, for the all day class on February 5 at the school in the Herengracht.    Two experienced sausage makers delivered the workshop, Nanda Elzinga who has worked in many of the top kitchens in Amsterdam and Theo Kroonenburg a well respected 68 year old butcher.  After a review of the importance of cleanliness and the equipment needed, a scale, meat grinder and varieties of stuffers, we watched as Nanda made the basic recipe, meat, fat, onions seasonings and salt in the right proportions

stuffed into casing.  Theo took to the task of creating the filling for venison sausages, adding this and that without aid of a scale or recipe, to the angst of Nanda who had carefully explained its importance, but that is what 40 years of experience allows you to do!

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