Try making your own sausage 

I love making my own sausages. Controlling everything that goes Into them. You can try thousands of flavor combinations, not much as far as limitations go. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment either. All you need is a grinder, stuffer and casings. For the every once and a while sausage maker I reccomend a hand grinder. It attaches to the edge of the table. You can find them cheap and they do well for small batches. 

For larger batches or more often then I would go with an electric grinder. They are around 80 dollars and up, but make things go much more quickly. Another important thing is to keep as much of your grinder parts cold as possible. By this I mean your dye, the spinning parts and the tube it comes out of. Don’t put any electronic components in the fridge. It’s important to keep all this cool to keep the meat cool and firm. When you grind meat with a warm grinder it can make the meat less firm and the fat can melt. This won’t make your sausage as well. The texture will be off. Also when you mix your meat don’t over do it or it will get too warm and the texture won’t be as nice. 

I like to use beef that’s tougher. I like more connective tissue and flavor. Don’t use expensive pork or beef. You can make sausage out of just about any meat. The leaner the meat the more fat you’ll have to add. Lamb sausage is nice as well as venison. Adding fat is easy. Use bacon, or preferably pancetta. This will add a nice flavor and the fat it will need. You need the fat to keep your sausage moist. Do a little research to find out how much fat to meat you’ll want for what you grind. 

Now that your meat is ground properly and has the proper amount of fat content it’s time to season. Salt is a must, I also like to add a good amount of fresh chopped herbs. I decide on what i want dependant on what I’m going for and the meat I’m grinding. For my Italian sausage I use roasted fennel, chopped onions and mushrooms that have been sauteed off and drained of as much moisture as possible. I also use basil, thyme and oregano. I use pancetta and inexpensive pork for this sausage. 
You can also add things like cheese and fruit if you want. Pineapple and dried fruits can be good. Try sharp cheeses thru come through the best. With lamb I like to add dried apricots. 
At this point you stuff your sausages. You put them in the cylinder and press down. The tube will push your mix into your casings. 

When it comes to the casings of choice I always use intestine. It sounds gross, but it gets the job done and is the easiest to use. When you use the synthetic casings you have to remove them before eating them. In my experiance they’re also more of a pain to work with. 
You just need to press down on the lever slowly and constantly. You have to put the casing of the tube. Just press how much you need on it like a spring. The casing will come off the tube, just make sure the meat fills it up evenly. This is controlled by how fast or slow you press down. 

You’ll have a long sausage now. I usually make mine about 8 feet long into a curl. At this point you tie the ends when you’re done. Then you pinch 6 inch segments and twirl to make your links. 

Be gentle when you cook it. You can grill it or as i prefer to cook it all in a pan with a little beer. Let them poach until they’re at their desired tempature.
Like a lot of other things let them rest before you cut into them so they stay more moist. You can make any kind of sausage you want. Get creative with it. 


Enjoy your homemade sausages. Try some new things and let me know what you try. Ask me for some ideas. Share this with your friends and I’ll do a post about how to make your own salami in a later post. 

Tips for a better burger 

An American staple, the hamburger. Burgers can take many forms. Every component is equally important to make the burger something really special. The bun, the sauce, the burger and the toppings. I’m going to give you some tips can that can make burgers go from good to great. 
First let’s start with the bun. You can bake a really nice burger bun. It’s relatively easy and they hold well. I usually opt to buy mine. You can find good ones in most bakeries. I always make sure to toast my buns. This helps the bun not to go soggy and it gives it a little more flavor. 
The sauce is important too. Mayo works just fine, however I prefer to either make my own special mayonnaise, or add to mayonias to give it a little something. The sauce is important, because its mostly made of fat and creates a thin protective layer on the bottom bun and it prevents it from going soggy. The sauce should be relatively neutral so the burger patty and toppings can define the burger. The patty and toppings being the main casts and the bun and sauce being the ensemble. 
The burger patty should be kept simple. Try adding some sauteed onions or mushrooms to your beef before you mix it. I like to sautee mushrooms and add it to my beef with blue cheese. This helps keep the burger moist, flavorsome and less messy when you eat it. Another burger I really enjoy making and eating of course is a burger with thyme, basil, sauteed onion and grated parmesaean cheese. Adding aromatic herbs is a really nice touch. Don’t overwork your beef mixture. Keeping your mixture cold and not working it too much will prevent a chewy and dry burger. Be mindful of how you cook your burger. I always reccomend medium for a burger. Cooked,  a little pink and juicy. It makes for a much more pleasurable eating experiance. 
Lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. The toppings almost every burger comes with. Boring. I really enjoy bacon, or super thin salami. Try cheeses that aren’t cheddar or Swiss. Try super thin Asiago, goat cheese, or mozzarella. Pickled vegetables are really nice on a burger too. Pickled watermelon radishes or peppers are interesting additions. My last tip is try lightly dressed greens like arugala or frisse. 

Tips and ideas for shrimp 

Shrimp are a fan favorite, ask my fiance. Packed with flavor and numerous ways to enjoy them cooked or raw. Every part of the shrimp can be used. I really dislike food waste.
Shrimp go very well with pasta dishes. I reccomend shelling your shrimp and making a stock out of the shells and heads, you can make the stock into a sauce, cook your pasta in it for a unique flavor or poach your prawns in it. If non of that suites your fancy than you can make shrimp oil. Take some neutral oil, such as canola oil and simmer your shells in it. Smash the shells with a potato masher and drain the oil from the shells. You can also make a compound butter out of shrimp stock simmered way down. 
Shrimp also go well with things like tacos and fajitas. Be gentle with your shrimp when sauteeing them for things like fajitas. They don’t take long to cook at all. Shrimp can go rubbery quick. If you cook them too long they also begin to lose some of their flavor. When making shrimp fajitas I season them gently with salt and cumin and add them once my onions and bell peppers are about halfway their. Also you can sautee your veggies in shrimp butter or oil if you made it. 
Try them on their own. Sautee them in a compound butter. Maybe add a little white wine and lemon juice. Finish with some herbs. All this in mind try to buy good shrimp that really helps. The shell bring good is important.

My easy tomato sauce recipe

This is a special one to me. Being Italian, creating a simple, delisuous tomato sauce is a right of passage. Everyone has their method and their “secret” item. I keep mine simple and almost neutral. I can evolve it further to fit with what I’m cooking if need be. What you’ll need:
Fresh tomatoes

Thyme

Basil

Oregano 

Salt/pepper

Olive Oil 

Red wine 

Red chili flake 

Garlic

White onion

Celery 

Fennel 
That seems like a lot, but its so easy to do. First heat your olive oil, add your garlic and chili flake and infuse the oil with those flavors. 
Add your small diced fennel, onion and celery, sweat down and season. Once this is done I add my chopped herbs. I mix this around a bit and add my red wine. 
Then I add my diced tomatoes and simmer for around an hour. I like mine chunky, I like the texture. You can blend it, but I think it’s really better a little chunky. Chunky sauce sits on your pasta better anyway. Now this is a neutral Italian tomato sauce that can be used in so many ways. 

Salads

Salads don’t have to be boring. Salad is a wider concept than most people would think. A salad only requires a base, body,dressing and garnish. The concept of a salad seems to be some kind of lettuce with some kind of dressing. That’s really not the case. I think the humble salad has a bad reputation, because it’s not generally the star of the meal, thus less attention is given to it.

There are three types of salads composed, tossed and bound. A composed salad means that things are put in particular places on the plat. An example of which would be a cobb salad or a nicoise. A composed salad is the most popular in more upscale cuisines, because it presents the best of the three salad types. You can control what goes where, and more importantly what it looks like. Composed salads are my choice a majority of the time. The downside to a composed salad is the fact that every bite is slightly different. How the customer eats the food is of great importance, so a composed salad must be done carefully.

The second salad type is a tossed salad. The tossed salad is the most common in restaurants. Its easy to do and every bite should be the same. Tossed salads are good as a starter as it will get the appetite going. Tossed salads are generally speaking smaller than composed salads. The disadvantage to a tossed salad is the fact that you cant control where everything is on the plate as well as with a composed.

The last type of salads is the bound salad. This mean the salad is bound with something. An example of a bound salad is a potato salad or macaroni salad. Its held together and should hold a shape if desired. This salad type isn’t the best sometimes, because its heavy generally speaking and its a monotone color as the binder covers most of whats in it.

GMO Labeling

Here in Oregon, GMO labeling is on the ballot. If voted yes, starting the 1st of January any GMO foods here would have to be labeled if they are indeed genetically modified. It’s been a hot topic here in Oregon. There doesn’t seem to be too much opposition by voters to the initiative.

Personally I think it’s a good idea to label GMO’s, people should know the state of what they’re eating. I do think though, consumers will still buy the same product even if the initiative passes. Food that is in its purely natural state is usually labeled organic. I know for myself I would buy exclusively organic products, but they’re far too expensive.

The food market is set up to make consumers buy processed foods that are cheaper to produce and cheaper for the consumer. Corn in the United States is actually a poison by the FDA standards. Corn in America has been so genetically modified that it produces it’s own pesticide. We don’t export as much food, because a lot of other places don’t want it.

Giving corn a label that says its a GMO won’t stop many people from eating it. Telling the consumer that the FDA labels it as a poison and creates its own pesticide might though. Telling the consumer their food has been genetically modified is a good first step, but we must go further.

We as the consumers must push for a better solution. Instead of having GMO’s labeled, let’s push for less genetically modified food in the first place. The disease is more important than the symptom. As a culinary student this issue is an important one to me. image

Why nutrition should be more important when cooking in a restaurant setting

Generally when going out to eat we don’t really think about what we are eating from a nutritional standpoint. During the night on the town, dining at the fancy French restaurant, we probably consume over one thousand calories in one sitting. The portion sizes are very large at most places, or you have multiple courses. Eating like that every once in a while shouldn’t be too harmful, but it will leave you not feeling so great the next day. It puts a heavy strain on your body.

On a recent venture to Fogo De Chao, I tried over 20 different meats. Every different meat had something special about it, I learned a lot. The next day, and even the ride home, I wasn’t feeling too great. I overate because it was an experience and I wasn’t thinking about it. I tried over 20 different meats and had a few drinks. I don’t even want to guess how many calories that meal was.

In my opinion it’s not so much the customers responsibility to eat smart, as it is for the restaurant to cook more healthy. The customer goes to your restaurant for the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a fine dining establishment wondering how man calories I consumed, or how much fat. Half of going out on the town to eat is spending time with family or friends. Sharing an experience with people you care about.

I’ve worked in several restaurants and I’ve seen a lot of room for improvement nutritionally. A massive amount of butter is used. A lot of the time you can’t get around that without making the dish sub par. There are two key ways I can think of to make nutrition a focal point without changing the menu.

The first is the easier of the two. You can lower the portion size on items that have a lot on the plate. The key problem with this being the consumer often times feels like they aren’t getting their moneys worth. Imagine you’ve been eating at a fine dining establishment once a month for a year. You know most of the servers by name. You go in for your  monthly dinner out with your significant other, you order your favorite pepper steak. After a drink and a nice conversation your steak gets to your table and it seems way smaller than usual. Would you be happy?

The second scenario is just cooking with less saturated fat and things like that. Keep the food itself more nutritional by cooking with that in mind. This isn’t easy though. French cooking for example uses an obscene amount of butter, but it makes the food delicious. Cooking French food with olive oil rather than butter would not be nearly the same.

The best way to keep the responsibility to the customer is just to have a menu to where you can cook nutritionally sound food in the first place. Most restaurants don’t think consumers keep nutrition in mind while eating out, which is true. 10 years from now It will be more important to consumers. Living in Portland i’m seeing it first hand. Places with healthier menus get more of the young crowd. Nutrition is important and it is the responsibility of the restaurant, to the consumer to cook responsibly. french

Growing your own herbs

Growing your own herbs saves a lot of money, creates a better product and is really easy to do. I’m currently growing chives, thyme and basil. It’s now fall so the lack of sunlight limits what will and won’t grow well. At this point of the year I would reccomend buying starts. Herbs that have already sprouted. To grow more delicate herbs at this time I would reccomend a garden lamp. It helps supply some artificial form of sunlight.

When starting from seeds make sure your soil is moist and full of nutrients. Most herbs require being planted between 1/4-1/2″ deep. The soul should constantly be kept moist I rimageeccomend checking it twice a day. Make sure the area where planted gets a moderate amount of sunlight. Too much sun will dry them out and sun bleach the herbs, but too little stunts growth.

I,being a culinary student, love using fresh herbs. There’s nothing quite like making pasta and having fresh basil to pick just feet away. Thyme for my sauces like my tomato sauce. Herbs on a window ceil are a great way to cut costs and elevate your food.

Fried Eggplant Vegetarian Sandwich Recipe

This is one of my favorite sandwich ideas I’ve had since starting culinary school. The chibatta bread slightly grilled so its toasty. The spread is comprised of goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. The main ingredient is fried eggplant. This sandwich came out wonderfully and I wanted to share the idea. bread

Ingredients:

2 slices Chibatta bread

3oz. Goat cheese

3oz. Sun dried tomatoes

3 Slices Eggplant

3oz. Mushrooms

Salt/Pepper

4oz. Flour

2each Eggs

4oz. Bread crumbs

Method:

Put mushrooms in oven at 350F with salt, pepper and oil. Dice sun dried tomatoes and mix with goat cheese until smooth. Coat sliced eggplant with salt and cover with paper towels (it dries the eggplant) coat with flour after removing salt and paper towels, egg wash and bread crumb. Fry the eggplant and toast the chibatta bread. Put the spread in a thin layer on the top and bottom slice of bread. Lay the eggplant and baked mushrooms on top of the bottom slice and assemble. Slice in half on a bias and serve/eat.

Fall Harvest Vegetable Ideas

One of my favorite times of the year is fall. Pumpkins, squashes and more opens many windows of what you can cook. I’ll post some of my favorite fall inspired dishes below. Post your fall inspired dishes in the comment section!

1 Vegetable Medley with butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon.

2 Spaghetti squash lasagna layered with tomato sauce, lamb and mozzarella cheese.

3 Pumpkin pie with a small layer of torched sugar serveddownload11 with black coffee.