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Quick Shot – Oliver Farm’s Chicken Bratwurst

New for Autumn 2011 from our friends at Oliver Farms, of Fostoria, Michigan: 100% organic chicken bratwurst!  What could inspire me to write about chicken anything? Read on! I received a pack of the brats for review, slow cooked 'em sealed in the vac-bag sous-vide method for 45 minutes, then brought them out to brown & finish in the cast iron. The result: a straight up honest chicken sausage. Oliver Farms uses a light hand on the herbs and seasoning which compliments the meat without overpowering the delicious subtleties of meat which came from real chickens, not battery birds homogenized into briny oblivion. The texture is fantastic. No gristle and chew, nor finely ground mush like mass produced products, but a real pleasant "hey this is real meat" mouth-feel and a satisfactory snap from the casing. As this is a chicken product, the bratwurst can be used as a lighter protein addition in any number of dishes that call for sausage or related forcemeats and will play well with most seasonings and sauces. This and other Oliver Farms high quality organic products can be ordered from their website and picked up at Farm markets located around southeast lower michigan, including Detroit's Eastern Market. See the Oliver Farms website for more information. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Cauliflower Comfort

This week's Chef's Night theme was to elevate a "comfort food" to a Rogue Estate level. Comfort food - warm, familiar, often simple, readily available and easily stretchable on tight budgets. It's a huge list of qualifiers to pick a single dish from, but after some inspiration from Michael Ruhlman, I settled on Roasted Cauliflower as my offering for this particular table. Roasted Cauliflower at it's most basic: a head of cauliflower is broken down into florets, oiled, seasoned and baked until golden, then served immediately. A preparation so simple that anyone can do it and the flavor and aroma so earthily wonderful that even the stubbornest anti-vegetarian will make room on the plate for it. How to improve something so perfectly wonderful as is? What could possibly be done that justifies the "it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule? I began my quest for gluttony by paging through various older cookbooks from home cooks and semi famous chefs alike and eventually did a bit of google searching on the subject as well. The evidence below is an amalgamation of influences collected from different eras, regions and even a few related only by virtue of containing cauliflower dishes which I tested the night before and prepared successfully and to much enjoyment on Chef's Night itself. The software:
  • 1 head of cauliflower, whole
  • 2 tbl lard (grapeseed oil works here if you're worried.)
  • 8-12 garden sage leaves
  • 2 springs silver thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 shallot, grated
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter (more for a larger head of cauliflower)
  • nutmeg
  • 1 oz parmesan cheese
  • 1 oz asiago cheese
  • 1 oz gruyere cheese
  • 1 oz finely chopped fresh parsely
  • 2 oz freshly squeeze lemon juice
  • scant dash of tobasco sauce
Method: Rinse the cauliflower, remove leaves and cut the stem back flush with the bottom of the head, leaving enough to hold everything together. If possible, brine a mild salt water solution for an hour or so prior to the next stage. The Pre-cook: this is an interesting step I discovered during my initial research courtesy of Harold McGee: a low heat pre-cook helps some veg reinforces cell walls, which in turn keeps things in better shape during high temp cooking. Cauliflower happens to be one of those vegetables aided by this process, called Persistent Firmness. Since the intent is to keep the head whole for a stunning presentation, do this if you have the time. Put the cauliflower in a pot and fill til just covered with water. Heat until the internal temp of the cauliflower is 130-140F for 20 minutes, remove and drain. While the precook is going, preheat the oven to 425F and put your fry pan on the fire to melt the lard or heat the oil and saute' half of the total sage leaves, thyme and all of the garlic and shallot. Once the herbs are spent, remove and discard, reserving the hot flavored lube. With the cauliflower drained and dried, lube the bottom of  your baking pan and set the cauliflower in it, then spoon or brush the entire head with the remaining lube. use it all. season with salt and pepper as desired and shove the whole thing into the oven uncovered for 45 minutes, give or take. While the head is roasting, grate the cheeses and chop the parsley, then combine in a zip lock or a bowl along with black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and set aside for finishing. Check your Cauliflower around 30 minutes - it should be starting to brown by now. Fire up the fry pan again, this time with the butter, remaining herbs, a pinch of nutmeg, the lemon juice and the tobasco. Sautee the herbs as before, discarding when they're spent. Continue to heat until the butter starts to brown, than remove to a bowl or cup for basting. Pull the cauliflower from the oven and drench with the butter. Cover every surface of the thing that you can and get it back into the oven to continue roasting. Pull and re-baste after 10 minutes and then sprinkle an ounce of the cheese mixture over the head, then send it back into the hot box for the finish. When it's reach your preferred level of golden brown, pull, slice it thick and transfer to your serving dish, fan the slabs out just a bit and sprinkle more of the cheese mixture over it and serve immediately. It's considerably more effort than the traditional roasted veg, but that's the kind of indulgent bastards we are around here and everyone present for this week's Chef's Night can tell you - it is well worth the investment. Cauliflower never had it as good as this. Cook this up for you next meal and put it in your heads! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Mitten Whiskey

Past articles on The Rogue Estate have covered both Michigan Wines and Michigan beers from all over the upper and lower peninsulas - it's my great pleasure to present our first Michigan Whiskey review. I wandered past my favorite (read: second home) party store this evening (The 9 & Hilton Market in Ferndale, MI) and found a wonderful surprise on the new arrivals section: Zeppelin Bend Straight Malt Whiskey from New Holland Artisan Spirits, a subsidiary of the New Holland Brewing Company located in Holland, Michigan. I'll leave the telling of the back story to the New Holland website. Let's get to the drinking. The color, as you can see from the photo, is a pleasing gold, like any good whiskey should be after spending time in Oak. The nose is solid vanilla - as soon as the bottle is uncorked, there is no missing it.  Sipping this whiskey straight, it's candy sweet, lots of vanilla notes and a very harsh burn thanks to it being a high octane 90 proof. The drink immediately mellows out with the addition of a splash of cold water. The harsh burn disappears, the vanilla smooths out and the cloying sweetness gives way to a very smooth, very pleasing whiskey that can stand up to top shelf bourbons. At $37 per 375ML bottle, this is not a daily drinker for most. A real good special occasion sipper to have on the shelf and a point of pride for Michigan folks who have been following the growing spirits market in the state. New Holland also lists Rums, Vodkas, Gin and a "Hopquila" on their distillery site, so you can expect to see reviews on those products in the future as they become available to us here at The Rogue Estate.     -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Self-Soup-Medicating

A perfect storm of me being sick, hungry and well... being ME led to an impromptu yet so damn good I'd be ashamed to not write it down soup recipe to share with you today. This is essentially a "leftover stew" made from whatever I had lying around a couple hours ago when hunger struck, with no desire at all to leave the house for additional supplies. The flavor is tremendous, enough so to cut right through the post-illness-malaise and wake up the senses with great aroma, flavors and a perfect amount of heat. Follow along and remember - it's soup - taste, taste, taste and adjust to your liking as you go. I have also included substitutions on the ingredient list, as I realize my staples and leftovers are probably rather exotic to the general public. Also worth reiterating:  it's soup. Approximate values are fine - If you have an extra carrot and room in the pot, dice it up and throw it in. The Software:
  • 2 tbl olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 6-8 ribs of celery, chopped thin
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped thin
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbl minced garlic
  • 12 oz chicken stock
  • 6 oz coconut milk
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbl shrimp/chili paste*
  • 1 tbl garlic/chili paste*
  • 1 tbl bean/chili paste (Toban Jan)*
  • 1 tbl Golden Boy fish sauce (or any available)
  • 1 tbl Penzey's sweet curry (any red or yellow curry powder or paste will do)
  • 1 tbl Penzey's sweet basil (or fresh if available)
  • 2 tbl cilantro, flat parsley or both, more to taste and for garnish
  • 2 packets instead dashi soup powder (a tbl or two of soy sauce works in a pinch.)
  • 1/2 brick dried ramen noodle per serving
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
* The various chili pastes all bring depth and warmth to the soup, so use however much of whatever combinations you have on hand and desire, the results will all be delicious. Method: In a large stock pot, heat the oil til shimmering, then add the onions, carrots, celery and a pinch of salt and pepper (aka the mirepoix) and simmer until just tender, adding the garlic about 5 minutes into the process, stir things around as needed to avoid browning. Bump up the heat and add the chicken stock, coconut milk, chili pastes, curry powder, dashi powder, ginger and fish sauce. Give it all a good stir and continue to heat til just at a tremble, then back off the heat to keep it there. No need to boil, as our veg it already cooked. Stir in the Basil, Cilantro, Parsley and lime juice. TASTE, TASTE, TASTE and make any adjustments you desire - even something as simple as a few drops of plain old tobasco will liven the party in interesting ways. Just before serving, crack the ramen into halves and add it to the pot, covering it with soup to soften to desired texture. I prefer my ramen a bit toothy, so my soup was ready to serve in 60 seconds. Scoop a hunk of ramen into a bowl, and cover with a scoop of the veg and a scoop of broth and serve immediately. Garnish with a dash of coconut milk and a pinch of additional basil / cilantro / parsely as desired. I dropped a couple quail eggs into my bowl, but that's just how I roll. ;) It's that simple. Go make you some! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

A beefy take on a classic Pozole

A cold weekend in Detroit with a hankering for Taqueria Lupita's Pozole and a couple pounds of interesting beef parts on hand, with a soup pot in hand and a couple hours before dinner, I came up with the following hearty, warming take on the traditional Mexican dish: the goods:
  • water
  • salt
  • 1lb beef tripe
  • 1lb beef neck
  • 1 qt beef stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 tbl tomato paste
  • 2 tbl adobo paste *
  • 15 oz lima beans
  • 3/4 c lime juice (3 limes worth)
  • 3 tbl butter
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1 tsp aleppo pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, cole slaw sized sliced
  • Fresh cilantro & additional limes for a zesty garnish, as much as you enjoy.
  • Hot sauce as desired
The method: The number one ingredient in this dish is time. It's one of those set and forget slow cook dishes perfect for a weekend where one needs to concentrate on activities outside of the kitchen. Set aside at least 3 hours of simmering time to allow the tripe to soften and let all the delicious bits of the neck bones melt into and thicken the broth. Start the soup pot on medium, melt the butter and add the diced onion & shallots. When the onions are translucent, increase the add the neck bones and cubed tripe, as well as the beef stock. Add water as needed to keep everything covered.  Adjust the heat as needed to keep everything at a tremble. Add the adobo, tomato paste and 1/2 the dry seasonings, reserving the rest. Simmer for two hours or more, give it an occasional stir ad add just enough water to cover the bones and tripe as needed. 30 minutes before serving, add the remaining seasonings, lime juice, lima beans (taking the place of the hominy) and the cabbage, keeping everything at a tremble and stirring as needed. Remove from heat after 15 minutes or when the cabbage is just tender. Remove the neck bones and scrape any clinging muscle away, returning it to the soup. Scoop into serving bowls, garnish with cilantro and a lime wedge. Additional raw cabbage is nice for texture, too. Add heat from your favorite hot sauce as desired. As with any soup or stew, this one is even better on the second day and will freeze and reheat without loss of fidelity. Enjoy! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.