Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thrown Together

Over the last couple days, our area was blanketed with about a foot of snow. Yesterday, we spent most of the day inside as the white stuff continued to pile up. So, this morning, Dad and I set out to work on pushing snow. We finished pushing our driveways and the neighbors driveways around lunch time and decided it was time to get out of the house. So, Danielle and I along with my parents headed to town to run errands and pick up some groceries.

While at Sam's Club, Danielle asked me if I've tried any of their different sausage offerings. We picked up a package of their Spinach and Asiago Cheese Chicken Sausage. When we got home I pondered how to turn the sausage into dinner. I browsed the world wide web for ideas, but nothing really jumped out and said cook me. I decided to improvise. I'll apologize now for the lack of step by step pics. I didn't think about making this a blog entry until the dish turned out so well.

I started by cutting up a pound of the sausage. I got a saute pan (thanks Ginny and Joe) pretty hot and added a couple rounds of olive oil. I cooked the sausage until it was beginning to show just a little of browning. I then added maybe 4 loose cups of spinach. I didn't measure anything. I cooked that until the spinach had wilted. I transferred the sausage and spinach to a bowl and added about two tablespoons of butter to the pan. When the butter melted, I added three cloves of chopped garlic. I let the garlic caramelize but not too much. Never overcook garlic! Its not good. Trust me.

To the garlic, I added about a half cup of roasted red peppers, roughly chopped. I use these all the time. They really add another dimension to a dish.

While the garlic and peppers were commingling I thought I needed to add some acid to the sauce. I looked through my everyday wine selection and realized that the only white wine I had on hand was a Moscato. That would be too sweet for the sauce I was envisioning. Then I saw a bottle of Verjus from Chateau Z Vineyard. I had never had Verjus, but Cliff convinced me to buy it a few weeks back. What is Verjus you ask. It is the juice of unripened grapes. Usually verjus is pretty acidic but gentler than vinegar. Bon appetit has a more in depth definition of you're still wondering. I added a little less than 1/4 cup to the garlic, pepper, and butter concoction.

To this mix I added about a tablespoon of chopped Italian herbs. I had basil, marjoram, rosemary and thyme. Use whatever you have. After the liquid had reduced by half, I added about a cup of heavy cream and reduced some more. To the bubbling goodness, I added a 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan and a generous helping of black pepper.

I added the sausage and spinach back to the saute pan and brought the sauce together. I don't know what to call it. I served it over Tagliatelle noodles. We'll just call it good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goat - Yes , Camembert - No!

In my last post (I know its been way too long), I posted step by step the making of what I had planned to be a goat version of a Camembert style cheese. The cheese aged beautifully, and after about 50 days (just before Christmas), I pulled one of the rounds out of the "cheese cave" i.e. wine fridge and cut it to share with family.

I was expecting the knife to slide through pretty easily. Then came the first deviation from the plan. I had to practically lay on the knife to cut the wheel in half. When the two halves fell apart came surprise number two. The cheese had pockets of green/gray mold throughout. I was disappointed. At this point, I quickly decided (while no one else was looking) that I put a lot of work into making this cheese and by golly, I was going to eat it. So I cut a small piece from a mold free area and it tasted GREAT! The flavor was very complex and reminded me a little of Manchego. Don't hold me to that as my cheese palate is only in its infancy. I knew that the mold wouldn't hurt me. Some molds transform cheese into absolutely delicious works of art. On the other hand, this particular cheese wasn't supposed to have mold. I'm guessing that in this particular round, the curd did not knit together consistently throughout, leaving pockets of air and creating an environment for contaminant mold growth. I didn't think to take a picture until the round was almost entirely eaten. However, the pic below shows some of the mold in a small piece. We all really enjoyed the flavor of the cheese, and my grandfather liked the stronger flavored moldy areas best.

I left the second wheel in the "cheese cave" for another couple weeks. I told myself that I was giving it more time to age. Its more likely that I was scared of what might jump out of it when I cut into it. So last Saturday, we were heading out for our normal market trip to the Lynchburg Community Market and then on for a visit to Caromont Farm in Esmont, VA. The "bread people" over at Lorraine Bakery had been in Germany for two weeks over Christmas and we were really excited they were going to be back on for the Saturday market. So, I decided it was time to cut into the second Not Camembert wheel and share the love. Early Saturday morning, I pulled the wheel out of the cave and cut it in half. Again the cheese was very hard - think Parmesan, but there was no mold contamination. I was really relieved. I packaged up half of the wheel to share at the market and half to take to Caromont hoping that Gail Hobbs-Page would be able to help me identify a style that the cheese resembled. The cheese was very well received by Petra and Steve at Lorraine Bakery as well as our friend Cliff over at Chateau Z Vineyard.

After the market trip, we headed out to Caromont Farm in Esmont, VA. Gail gave us a wonderful tour of her farm. Hop over to Danielle's blog and look for her January 9th entry for more on our trip. After the farm tour, Gail invited us inside for cheese tasting and fellowship. What better time to pull out my Not Camembert cheese for a little identification help. Gail and her husband Daniel both tasted the cheese and seemed to appreciated its flavor. She was very quick to point out that it was nothing like Camembert! She did mention that the flavor was similar to a Spanish goat cheese with a fairly dry and crumbly texture. I pulled out my notebook where I kept detailed notes during the cheese making. After examining the notes, we decided that if I wanted to make Camembert, that I should not cut the curd, but instead ladle the curd directly into the molds. This would also eliminate the 15 minute curd stirring step. I really liked the flavor of the cheese and don't think I want to turn it back into Camembert. I would like to get the texture a little less dry and crumbly. I've been reading and researching flocculation and the influence of flocculation time on the moisture level of the cheese. So, I have some ideas on how to go about getting the moisture level up in hopes of influencing the texture. Below is a picture of the round that I cut on 1/9/2010 for the market and trip to Caromont Farm.

On a more bittersweet note, we've been out of milk for over a month now that our friend Anita over at Shantara Acres has dried up most of her goats and ours are not due to kid until March. Well, late Sunday night Jacqsonne (our oldest doe) aborted five little goat fetuses. She was huge, and we think the stress of moving her from Tennessee over New Years along with the stress of carrying five fetuses was just too much. We began milking her Monday morning and she is slooooowly coming into milk. You can check out Danielle's blog for more info on Jacqsonne and the other girls. So, we are beginning to have a little milk and I will be able to resume cheese making sooner than anticipated.