Cheese (High Fat/Creamy)
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Sweetbreads are one of my favorite things to cook as of late. This delicacy is very easy to execute, they do not over cook easily and they will melt in your mouth every time. Of the odd-ball things to eat from animals (foie gras, bone marrow, etc) Sweetbreads are the least intrusive in terms of flavor, getting past the fact that they are glands is another story. Sweetbreads usually come from calves/veal but often come from lamb and pork. The glands that are most commonly used are the thymus, which come from the neck, gullet, or throat and the pancreas, which come from the heart, stomach, or belly. To some it is very hard to eat sweetbreads because of what it is, I always tell people “If you like foie gras, then sweetbreads are no problem”, not always true but I have found it to be a good way to get more people to try them.
The dish below is one that took a few days to get together , as the sweetbreads needed to sit in a brine. Once brined they needed to develop a pellicle so they would hold the smoke. After sitting in the cooler for 12 hours they had a nice pellicle, a dry rub was added that had paprika, black pepper, and brown sugar as its main ingredients, then we put them in a vacuum bag and cooked them in a water bath. Once removed from the water bath we pressed them with a weight so we could get a nice uniform piece, which was then cut into the desired sized pieces. The accompaniments were a caraway shortbread, sautéed chard, candied pine nuts, and a huckleberry confiture.
In a previous post, about a year ago, I made beef short ribs in a pressure cooker. The cooking time on them was 45 minutes, when I cook short ribs in an oven I go about 10-12 hours at 225°F, the way of the water bath we are about to embark on will take 3 days/72 hours. One benefit in cooking the meat this slow will allow you to have a higher yield by about 30%. From the numerous resources that I have read on sous vide short ribs you want to have your water bath set to 135°F which, where I live, is too low for the government. With this being said I will cook the short ribs at 138°F to see if there is a drastic difference in finished product. When cooked at 135° the meat is very tender and still pink in the middle, and when you cook a steak to an internal temp of 138° you are on the verge of a medium, which would yield a steak to have a little less pink. You will need a vacuum sealer and an immersion circulator of some sort for this recipe, and the actual quantity and size of the ribs are not that important, just know that you will need to have a larger water bath if you have more short ribs than what is in this recipe to allow for proper circulation.
Beef Short Ribs (Slow and Low)
2ea short ribs (approximately 3 inches thick with 3 bones)
6ea Garlic Cloves
6ea Oregano stems (or herbs of your choice)
AN Salt and Pepper
- To start set your immersion circulator to 138°F in a tub of water.
- Remove the meat from the bones and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat a saute pan with the butter
- Once the butter has melted place the meat in the pan, fat side down, along with the herbs and garlic.
- Once the butter begins to brown tilt your pan back, works best with gas stoves, and push the meat to the elevated portion of the pan to allow the butter to pool near the handle. Pull the pan towards you to keep the butter off the heat and the meat directly above the flame. This will allow the steak to continue to brown and will prevent the butter from burning.
Butter is beginning to brown.
Tilt the pan and move the butter away from the heat and the meat directly above.
- With a spoon, continuously spoon the butter on top of the meat, checking the other side for color every couple of spoonfuls. This technique is called basting and it is the best way, in my opinion, to cook red meat and pork.
- Once the meat has a nice brown color flip it over and baste a few more times and set aside to cool.
- Once it has cooled, about 10 minutes, lay out a sheet of plastic and place the meat on it, followed by the garlic and herbs, then pour the butter over the top. Quickly lift the sides of the plastic up and wrap the meat without loosing any of the ingredients in side. Place the meat in the fridge for about 4 hours. This will allow the butter to solidify and make it easier to seal in a vacuum sealer. It is also important that is as cold as possible before vacuum sealing.
- Prepare your sous vide bath, setting the temperature to 138°F
- After a few hours the butter should be firm and the meat should be cool to the core. Seal the meat in a vacuum sealer and place in the refrigerator until your water bath is at temp.
- Once at temp, start the timer and drop the meat into the water bath.
- Now the painful part, wait 72 hours for the meat to cook, in the meantime start creating your dream short rib dish.
- When the 72 hours have expired prepare and ice bath with a little salt, to help lower the temperature, and remove the meat from the water bath and place in the ice bath. Let these sit in here for 45 minutes to cool completely.
- Once cooled remove from bag and wipe off excess cooking liquid and herbs. Trim the edges and square off your short ribs to the size you want to serve, mine were about 3x2x2.
The meat is now ready to be seared and served to your liking, I typically brown them on four sides then cover with another pan and hit it with a little bit of water to help warm it to the center.
As much as I love prosciutto, it can be a very expensive investment and once it has taken its sweet time to cure and age it should be eaten quickly, although it can be portioned and placed in the freezer to make it last longer. Since I am only making prosciutto for myself I decided to use duck breasts, they are easier to work with when beginning to cure meat and it will fit in my larder better than a full pig leg. The technique that I am about to show you came from a butcher in Portland, OR, that I learned to cure meat from by the name of Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie.
For my first run of duck prosciutto I am going to use Peking duck breasts, as they are more common and cheaper. They have a decent amount of fat on the breasts and a pretty neutral duck flavor, since they are farmed and not wild. The trick to a good prosciutto is to cure and age the meat encased in fat/skin to prevent the flesh from spoiling and drying out. To ensure that the meat is fully encased in fat I am going to sew two duck breasts together by the skin. Doing this will give me a larger portion of meat to serve as well as the fat, which will absorb the flavors of the cure. I created two samples and the duck breast that was sewn together will be the first, for the second, I decided to take a different approach. I recently picked up a small amount of “Meat Glue”, or Transglutaminase/Activa (not to be confused with Activia®) from Modernistpantry.com to play and experiment with. For those that do not know what this product is you can read about it here. Instead of sewing the breast together, I “glued” them together, and after 24 hours of setting time for the glue to activate, I had conjoined duck breasts that were ready for curing.
(Franken) Duck Prosciutto
4ea Duck Breasts
1ea Leather needle
~6′ Butcher twine
2ea Pinches of Pink Salt
- Start by laying the flesh side of the two duck breasts together to determine whether the fat will be able to encase the meat. If it doesn’t, do not worry, you will just need a little warm duck fat later to rub onto the flesh. Sprinkle a pinch of pink salt onto the flesh side of each duck breast and begin to sew them together.
I tied a loop with a knot in one end that will hold the twine in place and allow me to hang the duck after it has cured.
- I made my needle out of a wooden skewer. Begin sewing the breast together, only penetrating and sewing the fat together all the way around the duck breasts.
And to think that the home economics classes I took in middle school would finally pay off.
- Once sewn together, check for any parts of flesh that might be exposed, if there are any just mix a little bit of warm duck fat with ground black pepper and rub it onto those areas.
The Cure (Recipe adapted from Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie)
1.5T Juniper Berries
1T Fresh Garlic
1T Whole Black Peppercorns
2ea Bay Leaves
1ea Sewn Duck Breast
- Combine dry spices and pulse in a food processor.
- In a bowl combine all ingredients, except duck and mix well.
- Toss the duck in the cure, lay a handful of the cure onto a sheet of plastic wrap.
- Place the duck on top followed by another handful of cure.
- Wrap the duck and the cure tightly in the plastic to ensure that the breasts are completely covered in cure.
- Label, date, and apply about 10# of weight on top of the duck breast, the weight will help it cure faster. Place in the fridge and cure for seven days.
- Remove the duck from the plastic, reserving the cure, and check for firmness, it should be uniform.
- If it is still soft in some spots, which mine was, then re-apply the cure, mine will take another three to four days.
Re-applying the cure to my duck breasts and wrapping and storing for 3-4 more days.
- Once the duck has finished curing it should feel firm. For the one sample that I used meat glue on I did not apply any weight, and it was not entirely firm but it ended up more round than the one that was weighted, which turned out flat.
- I brushed off the cure and hung both prosciutto’s in the larder. I wrapped one with cheesecloth and left the other unwrapped.
- These will age anywhere from one month to three.
The duck prosciutto is finally finished and I couldn’t be happier, well unhappy with one and very happy with the other. Final results:
- The meat glued and un-pressed duck breast was unsuccessful, not because of the meat glue but because the breast where so thick it took too long for it to lose moisture being encased in fat. In the future I think this one would work better if I cured it longer, it was not quite firm enough and I should have left it in the cure for another week.
- The sewn duck breasts, that were also weighted, turned out very well. The meat was encased in a very flavorful fatty skin. There isn’t much more to say about it except, Wow! Next time I will look at using Muscovy duck breasts as they are almost three times the size.