Bresaola Part III: An Italian dinner

On tuesday, we weighed our bresaola for the final time and with about a 37% decrease in weight, IT WAS READY. So we took it down and unwrapped it. The pieces of meat were not the prettiest things at this point, there were some salt deposits on the outside of the meat, leaving white spots all over the outside, plus a little bit of (healthy) mould. But once we wiped them down with a bit of red wine vinegar, and then rinsed them off a bit, they were looking pretty good. Then came the moment of truth: slicing into it!

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Looks pretty good, no? Not as lean inside as I’d hoped, but it doesn’t really bother me. But more importantly, how does it taste? Now, I should be clear that before this, I’ve never actually had bresaola before, so I can’t say whether it tastes how it’s supposed to, but I can say that it tastes pretty good! It’s earthy and spicy. You can really taste the juniper berry and the cloves from the salt cure mixture.

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It also looks really lovely, I think. Not the deep red colour we’d seen in other pictures online, but nice and pink and pretty nonetheless. The texture seems pretty spot on to me. Nice and soft in the middle, but clearly cured. Nice and salty, but not overwhelmingly so. I officially declare it a success! I think we want to do duck prosciutto next.

So, with a nice supply of bresaola on hand, I decided I wanted to have a nice Italian meal to feature it. Doing some research online, it seems it’s commonly served, thinly sliced, on arugula, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. So that’s exactly what I did.

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The salty, earthy taste of bresaola, the bite of the arugula and tang of the lemon juice, worked really, really nicely together. And then of course, we had to top it with shaved parmesan reggiano. A perfect starter.

Then I followed it up with a pasta carbonara, super rich and fancy, but pretty darn easy. I added some asparagus, because we love asparagus around here, and Matthew could eat it every day if he had the choice. All you need to do, really, is fry up some bacon, or pancetta with some garlic. Once it was done, I added some white wine to the pan, and let it boil down so that it wasn’t too liquidy. Mostly because I was holding a glass of wine, and I thought, “why not?” and splashed it in there. Then add some chopped, cooked, asparagus to the pan. You can cook the asparagus however you like. I blanched mine for about 4-5 minutes. At some point in the midst of all of this, you want to grate a cup of parmesan, and separate 4 eggs, keeping the yolks, and doing whatever you want with the whites. Mix the yolks with the grated cheese. Add a generous splash of cream. This is going to be your sauce. Set it aside. Then you add your cooked pasta to the pancetta-asparagus pan. I used linguine, but you can use whatever you like, really. This next part is the important part that makes it so rich and delicious. Turn off the heat on the pan. And then pour your sauce mixture overtop of pasta, and use some tongs or a pasta ladle to mix it around right away. You want the heat from the hot pasta to essentially cook the egg yolk as you mix it, but you don’t want it too hot, otherwise the egg will cook too fast and it will separate from the cheese and create a lumpier sauce. This is fine, and still tasty, but if you can get a silk smooth sauce, then why not, right?

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asparagus and pancetta

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We finished this meal off with a nice little cannoli from a bakery, which I didn’t take a picture of, and had an all around successful Italian meal.

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Bresaola Part 2

ImageSo, it’s been over a week since my last post. I was hoping to post 1-2 times a week, but I guess, as it turns out, I don’t always cook the most interesting stuff. There has been good food this past week, don’t get me wrong. There’s been crock-pot pulled pork with jalapeño cornbread and homemade slaw, there’s been cabbage, bacon and egg hash, and there’s been some damn good pappardelle at an east side italian restaurant. But either they just weren’t quite good enough for sharing with you all, or I forgot to take any pictures. And if there are no pictures THEN WHAT’S THE POINT!?

But I did take pictures of last night, when Matt and I began the next step of making the Bresaola. You guys, it’s going to be SO GOOD. It’s pretty reassuring when hunks of meat that have been sitting in our fridge for over two week still smell GREAT. It smells like mulled wine and nature and meat. All the best things, really. Last monday we applied the second  batch of dry cure to the meat and sealed it in fresh bags. By the time we took it out of the fridge last night it was sitting in a fair amount of juices, drained from the meat.

ImageImageAfter rinsing the cure off of the meat and thoroughly drying it, it was time to wrap it up. Some people get either natural or synthetic casings for their meats, others simply tie the meat. We chose to wrap ours in cheesecloth.

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ImageThen we tied them (with the help of a few youtube videos) with some simple butcher’s knots so that they’re all ready for hanging.

ImageWe then hung the meat in our “curing unit”, i.e. converted wine fridge. Right now it’s sitting at about 11 degrees and about 58% humidity, which is a tad bit lower that we want, so we’re going to experiment with adding some more containers of water, or maybe a sponge or two to bring it up a bit higher. Ideally, for curing meat, you want the temperature between 10-15 degrees celsius and the humidity between 60-70%. But I think we’ll be just fine. Now we just have to weigh the meat weekly, and once it’s lost about 35-40% of it’s original weight, we’ll know it’s ready. I’ll make a final post about it at that point!

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Two Recipes for Winter

You guys, winter has been an asshole this year. A real asshole.

As a result, my soul needs beige carby foods. I’m sorry, it just does. It needs filling buttery goodness that allows me to hibernate under my duvet, or in front of my fireplace and stuff something warm and comforting into my maw. Not every day, not every night, but often enough to remind me that warm, comforting things do still exist.

Now winter is also mostly over. We got snow last night, but despite that, finally, mercifully, the end is nigh. Tuesday after next is supposed to go up to 12 degrees. TWELVE. Twelve. But until then, if you need a little something, or two, to bury yourself in until winter is really, truly over, I offer you two recipes:

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 The first one is pastina. Oh my goodness. In case you don’t know, pastina is really just the type of pasta used, a tiny pasta often used as a soup pasta, that comes in little shapes like stars or squares or, as in our case, the alphabet.

It all started when, a little while ago, Matt was telling me about how his Nonna used to make him pastina when he was little, and how we could never get enough of it. “More, Nonna. MORE” he’d demand. I’d never really had pastina made in the way he was describing, so I figured I’d try it out. It’s really easy and so, so gratifying. It’s like crack.

The key to making it super delicious and soul-warming, I think, is boiling the pastina in chicken broth. I’m sure you could use veggie broth too if you wanted. Boil up a pot of chicken broth, and then add the pastina. I just kind of eyeball it, but the box usually has instructions. The pastina absorbs most of the broth, and once it’s cooked, there shouldn’t be a lot of broth left in the pot. The first time I made it, I didn’t put enough liquid in and had to add a few cups as it cooked. Once it’s done, you just scoop the pasta into some bowls with a slotted spoon. You want just enough liquid to make it nice and slippery, kind of like a sauce, but not too much. Then you just add a ton of butter and grated parmesan and mix it up and then literally stuff it down your gullet. It’s so velvety and smooth, like a kind of mac and cheese, and it just slides down your throat. Seriously guys, it’s so good.

If you wanted to kind of seem healthy, I’m sure you could add veggies to the pot. But whatever.

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My next offering is equally delicious and satisfying in a completely buttery, warm way.

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 I’ve not usually been a huge fan of banana bread. It’s okaaay. But usually just okay. But then, a few years ago I found this recipe. It uses buttermilk, and butter and the result is…fluffy? And buttery and banana-y and so darn good. It’s just different and better than most other banana bread recipes I’ve found.

I usually follow the recipe fairly closely, though depending on whether or not I feel like buying an entire litre of buttermilk for the 4 tablespoons this recipes calls for, I might just do the ole milk and lemon/vinegar combo. But I do make one change:

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Adding booze to recipes is another great way of making yourself feel better in the bitter cold months. Why would you NOT but bourbon in a banana based recipe?! It just makes sense. So screw the vanilla. Add the bourbon.

So anyway, chuck it in the oven for about 50 minutes, or usually more for me, and then when it’s done, it comes out with a beautifully caramelized crust, and even though there’s already a fair amount of butter in it, you can smear more on a slice, and then you can munch on it and feel at peace with the world again.

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Yea. You’re welcome.