Lamb Ragu with Ricotta Cheese and Mint 

A simple slow cooked ragu is simple and tasty. Once you get it going you just let it simmer away for a few hours. This recipe is for a lamb ragu, however the method will work for any ragu you would want to make. Rabbit ragu is also fantastic.
It’s simple in the method as well as the food and equipment you’ll need. What you’ll need:

Olive Oil 

Onion 

Carrot

Celery 

Fennel

Salt/Pepper

Oregano 

Thyme 

Rosemary 

Mint

Red wine 

Diced or ground lamb 

Tomato paste 

Canned tomatoes 

Pasta 

Ricotta cheese 
First of all you’ll make you’re mirepoix. Dice your onions, celery, fennel and carrot. In a large pan sweat your vegetables in olive oil and season. 

Now you’ll chop and add your herbs. I tend to go moderate on the herbs. This can make the difference between an okay and a really good ragu. Depending on the protein you’ll be using in the ragu adjust what herbs you’ll use. For this recipe I use oregano, thyme and rosemary. Lamb is a gamey protein so you’ll want herbs that can stand up to that. I love basil, but it doesn’t add much adding it now. It’s too light and delicate for this recipe to come through enough in the final flavor of the ragu.

Add your tomato paste at this point. Stir it around and let it fry out. Let most of the moisture cook out. This will create a fond on the bottom of your pan. The stuff thats kind off cooked onto the bottom. Now you’ll want to deglaze this with your red wine. I just use a simple table wine. 
Add your canned tomatoes and water. Now is when you let it simmer for hours. Cook until your diced lamb is falling apart. If you used a minced lamb this would take less time, however the texture of the chunky lamb is nicer. Gently simmer don’t let it boil. Adjust your seasoming at this point.
For this recipe and ragus in general, use a bigger pasta. I prefer a short pasta like a penne or papradelle. Fresh pasta is perfect for this kind of recipe. Cook it al dente in seasoned water. 
In a separate smaller pan add as much ragu as you want and your pasta and stir. Let it sit for a minute. It will be extremely hot so it’ll stay warm for a minute. This helps the pasta and ragu come together as one the most they can. 

Ricotta cheese does this a lot of good. The creamy soft cheese with the rich tomato sauce is a match made in heaven. Finish with a little chopped mint and you’re ready to serve. 

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. 

Try to dry age your beef

There are a few reasons why a dry aged steak is superior to a normal steak. I reccomend this for people who enjoy a strong beef flavor and are more patient. This is a blog post about why you should and how it works. To do it yourself it is easy, but do a little more research on your own. All you’ll really need to buy is the beef and a moisture level reader which isn’t expensive. 

Essentially all you do is clean a primal, which is just the side of uncut steaks like the picture above, above a pan of salt in a refrigerator. Preferably in a refrigerator by itself. You want to keep the moisture level down, this is where the moisture level reader comes in. Putting it above a layer of coarse sea salt sucks a lot of the moisture out of the refrigerator and aides in drying the steak. Don’t let the steak actually touch the salt though. 

A few things about what happens to the steak when it dry ages. The beef will shrink by about a third. The moisture being drawn out is water weight and mass and when you pull that out the steak gets smaller. Also it will form a not so appetizing crust like in the picture above. This is okay, you just need to trim it off and the steak underneath will look beautiful. A rich red color. 
I reccomend using a New York strip or a ribeye as your selected primal. It will shrink and you will have to cut the crust off so you want something bigger, not like a fillet or clod. 

With the steak shrinking the beef flavor intensifies. It consolidates the flavor. It makes it a rich and beautiful flavor. A typical first time dry age is 30 days. It intensifies the flavor and is easy to eat. The longer you dry age the steak the more rich the flavor gets and it will get a funk after about 70 days. Some people like it, but others don’t. I like it myself. I’ve had steak that was dry aged 90, 180 and 270 days and I think anything over 180 is too much. It starts to get way too funky tasting like a string blue cheese. 

When you go to cook your dry aged beef cook it medium or below. You’ve ready sucked a lot of the moisture out of It, so it’ll go dry quickly if you overcook it. Dry aged beef is more tender, however it will go dry more quickly. I love to pan sear mine and baste it with a compound butter. Always let it rest, this will also help your steak be more moist and pleasurable. Do some research and try it yourself. 

Tips to take the challenge out of Salmon 

I lived in Alaska on and off for years and one of the best ingredients there was the incredible salmon and crab. Almost everyday, all summer long I would come into work and fillet at least 2 big king or sockeye salmon. Fish can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. 
Salmon is great, it has it’s own distinct flavor, yet it’s light and takes on other flavors well too. Stay away from pink or chum salmon. I used chum salmon for bait and pink salmon for smoking. They don’t have the most pleasant and clean flavor you want out of a salmon. King salmon, or Chinook depending on what you call them where you live, are nice and large. King salmon to me has a little bit of a generic flavor compared to sockeye. Chinook is so popular, because of their large size. Sockeye is flavorsome and contains the least amount of mercury. The fillets that come off of a sockeye salmon have a very bright and distinct color.  Coho salmon is also pretty nice. It’s similar to the taste of a king salmon, just a bit smaller. 
I always prefer fillets over steaks. I think steaks don’t look as nice and they’re more of a pain to eat. Usually in super markets salmon comes fillet and with the pin bones already removed. Also I find salmon cooks more evenly cut into fillet portions rather than steaks. 
Look at the label in the case. Wild caught is always better. Farmed fish isn’t good. They feed it corn pellets and something to make the flesh look kind of how it’s supposed to. The flesh should look bright, not washed out or faded. Look for salmon that hasn’t been frozen. Previously frozen salmon will almost always end up being dry and it makes it harder to cook, because it’ll be falling apart more. This will also drain it of a lot of its flavor. 
Try cooking it skin on. A nice crispy skin can be nice on A salmon. I prefer it myself. If you don’t like the skin and don’t want to ruin your fillet by trying to skin it, cook it skin on and it’ll just come right off with your fingers. 
When it comes to cooking your salmon I prefer to pan sear, bake or eat it raw. Salmon is nice on sushi and in poke if it’s fresh and fatty. When I sear mine I just heat a pan up with some oil in it and put it skin side down in the pan. Let it cook about 70 percent the way on the skin and flip it. It will finish soon after. You can see it when you cook your salmon in a pan how cooked it is by looking at the side. Salmon is nice medium rare. When you bake it just season it and put it skin side down in a oven around 350 degrees until it’s done. It really is that simple. 

Easy beef Wellington 

Beef Wellington was an intimidating dish for me to cook at first. It seemed difficult, but making a few for dinner is really an easy thing to do. A beautiful fillet mignon in puff pastry. What you’ll need:

Fillet mignon 

Stone ground mustard 

Prosciutto 

Portobello mushrooms

Thyme 

Oregano 

Basil 

Parsley

Puff pastry 

Salt/pepper 

Eggwash 
First of all you’ll cut your fillet into about 4 inch long rounds. This makes them look nicer and cook more quickly. Sear your fillet until nice and brown on all sides. While still hot rub your mustard on it. Lightly coast it. The beef will absorb a lot more mustard flavor while it’s hot. 
Blitz your mushrooms and herbs in a blender. Add this to a sautee pan with no oil and cook out all the moisture from the mushrooms. 
Set your prosciutto out on plastic wrap. Enough that it’ll wrap all the way around the beef. Place your mushroom mixture on top of the prosciutto in a thin even layer. Place your fillet down now and wrap around tight. 
Now you can wrap it in your puff pastry coated in eggwash. Pinch the seems tight and score the top of the puff pastry. Place on your baking sheet seem down and bake until your desired tempature is reached. I reccomend using a digital thermometer. You won’t be able to feel the beef for doneness so this takes the guess work out of It.
When it’s done, rest it for around 8 minutes and slice into thick slices. I like to slice mine around 1 inch thick. 

A great little known cooking method

      There are a thousand ways to cook a duck. One method has always been my favorite. The confit method, which can be applied to so many meats and even seafood, leaves you with a vastly flavorsome and moist product. 
      The first time I had something cooked this way it was duck leg and thighs. It was so delicious,  moist and crispy all at once. Packed with so many flavors. Falling off the bone. The confit method is very simple. Take oil and, or fat, and add herbs, maybe garlic or other vegetables to infuse the oil with flavor. Add your meat and simmer away for hours on a medium heat, until it’s fall off the bone and has a golden and crispy crust or akin. I use a medium heat this always gives me the fall off the bone without burning it. 
     Confit is also a preservation method. Let’s say now that you make a bunch and do nt use it all at once. You can cover it with the oil and fat and refridgerate it for a long time. The oil, especially when it solidifies, will keep all bacteria out. Bacteria can’t grow without oxygen. What I have done in the past is made a bunch of duck confit. Eaten some and refrigerated the rest and pull and warm it as I need it. It’s really handy that way. 
     Now confit can be applied to many kinds of meats. You want something that would otherwise be tough. Use the thicker cheaper cuts of beef for instance. I used beef neck. It breaks down the connective tissue and makes it super tender. This is why with poultry always use the dark meat. I’ve been meaning to try squid confit. Use herbs and vegetables that apply to the meat you’re doing it with. With my squid I’ll use lemongrass and olive oil with thyme. All subtle things that go well with squid.
     You can also use confit items to use in other things. Make a rillete and serve with a cracker, try some in pasta. My advice is the first few times you do it keep an eye on it. You want it simmering gently not deep frying it. Always dry the meat before adding it. And know you can do it in a Dutch oven in the oven. 

Want a flavor boost? Try a compound butter!

This was one of my favorite discoveries in culinary arts was my love for butter. A building block of French cuisine. It makes thinks taste so good, but it’s boring on its own. I love making compound butters. A compound butter is just a butter that’s had things like herbs, vegetables and spices added to it. 
        Making a compound butter is simple. You simply soften the butter and add things too it. When I make my compound butter I lay my mixture on parchment paper and roll it into a log. Then I freeze it for longevity purposes. Also remember to be careful with any spices or salt you put in your butter. If your dish is properly seasoned then this may make it salty. 
         Think about what you’re going to put your butter on. For fish I love to add lemon juice, chives and roasted fennel. All pretty neural, but beneficial flavors for most red and white fish. Now for shellfish like prawns you might want something more robust. Try espolette, lime juice and cilantro for a Spanish dish. Garlic, lemon juice and thyme for steamed mussels and clams.
          For something like a steak try maybe garlic, thyme and rosemary. You can even baste your steak in the butter after or simply rub it on top when it’s cooked. Rightc after your meat domes out is when I put my butter on. Let the meat absorb as much of those flavors as possible. With shellfish I usually cook it in the butter with some white wine.
     Compound butter gives your food a flavor boost as well as a nice sheen. Sometimes when you cook something like fish or chicken, it’ll look a little dry when in fact it’s not. The compound butter will prevent that. It’ll look moist and interesting. Remember butter is not a bad thing. In moderation it’s a great flavor enhancer like salt. 

        

Use what’s best near you.

I think taking pride in what’s close and available to you is important. I’m a strong supporter of buying local for as many things as I can. Some of the best foods available to you are probably the closest.
I’m from a small town in South East Alaska and we have some of the best salmon in the world right there. It was common place for me to come into work and fillet two magazine quality salmon. It was incredible. So many options of what you can do with a great king or sockeye salmon. We used almost every part of the salmon. We saved the collars to smoke and scraped any leftover flesh for poke. Even the carcass was saved to use in crab pots. The town I lived in was an island, so all the produce had to be flown in or shipped in on the barge. The produce was usually god awful. That always frustrated me. I would usually cool with our fresh local salmon, or long cod, or the nicest fresh and still moving spot prawns you’ve ever seen. 
Now I’m back in the Portland area. The seafood here is lackluster to say the least. Good salmon here is mediocre by my standards. However we do have amazing craft brewers, produce and fruits here. It’s been incredible to use the freshest of produce again. Local bison, chicken and beef also helps. I always reccomend trying to get to know the people who run the establishments that make the food you buy. See how the food is treated and base your buying decisions off of that. 
Every region has food to be proud of. I always like to go with the flow in that sense. Master what your region does best. It’ll come out a lot better than trying to buy mediocre products, because they’re exciting. 

Steak temperatures

As a cook, nailing steak tempatures constistantly takes a long time to master. I’m going to give you my tips on how to do it more easily.
 By touch is how most end up doing it. You can use a thermometer and it will be guaranteed. This is how I reccomend beginners to do it. Start with a thermometer and touch it. See when the steak is rare and feel it. Log how firm the steak feels when pressing on it with your finger, with every temperature.
Now this is where it gets pretty tricky. Every cut of steak will feel different at different temperatures. A New York strip is going to feel more firm at medium than a fillet mignon. This is why I never discourage anyone from using a thermometer. I still use one from time to time.
Another important tidbit is always pull it off 5 degrees before the desired steak temperature. It will carry over cook around 3 to 5 degrees once you pull it off the grill or out of the oven. So if you want a perfect 135 degree medium rare, pull it off at 130. Also as I’ve said In past posts always let it rest for around 8 minutes. It’ll keep that steak a lot nicer. 
I’ll attach a nice temperature chart to this post, it’s very handy and I used it when I started cooking so many times. My final point is this, know how you like your steak. Educate yourself on how a steak looks at the temperature you like. So many times I’ve seen a perfect medium rare steak send back because they think it’s underdone. Then we cook them a medium steak and they think it’s perfect. Again the chart attached to this is a really great guide. Steak is one of my favorite foods and things to cook. Don’t let it be intimidating. Think of your thermometer as your sword and conquer that steak. There’s nothing that has to be tricky about cooking a steak. 

Tips for cooking a better Steak.

Steak has a reputation of being intimidating especially for the home cook, but it doesn’t have to be. Understanding a few concepts will make a big difference. 
When buying a steak to cook as a steak look for something with a fair amount of marbling and fat. This in mind look for something with a lower amount of connective tissue. A fillet mignon is very tender, almost no connective tissue, and super lean, but the trade off is that it doesn’t have nearly as much flavor as other steaks. Fat is important for the flavor of a steak. A New York strip is very flavorsome, however tends to be less tender, because it has a lot more connective tissue. A nice in between is the ribeye steak. It’s fatty and tender, a moderate amount of connective tissue. 
Now that you’ve selected the right steak for you, you have to prepare it. When I cool a steak at home I let it slack out for about 25 minutes before I cool it. Which means i season it and let it sit out for 25 minutes. This is safe and allows for the temperature of the steak to become warmer. This does several things. This makes the steak cook more quickly. This also draws some moisture out of the steak you can pat off and in turn will give your steak a better crust.
In restaurants we feel the steak and can tell by the firmness what level of doness it is. This takes a lot of time and practice so I would reccomend using a thermometer. When you cook your steak, pull it off 5 degrees sooner than what doness you want. A medium rare steak is 135 I pull mine at 130, because it’ll carry over cook around 5 degrees on average. 
To cook my steak for maximum flavor I use a cast iron pan. I use canola oil and get the pan very hot. I put the steak in and sear it hard on both sides, put it in the oven until it’s the doness you want. When I pull the steak out I set it on a plate and let it rest for around 8 minutes. When you cook a steak all the fibers tighten up, so cutting into a steak right when it comes out it’ll push all the moisture out and youll be left with a dry steak. So let it rest and all the fibers will loosen up and you’ll be left with a moist steak.