Excited this morning to realize I had leftover white rice, wilted greens, and mild artisinal sausage in the fridge (from three totally different meals). A half hour later with an egg simmered to perfection and some seasonings…a delicious congee breakfast! Lovely memories of traveling in Asia right now. The power of food to conjure experience.
I’ve got a lot to post in coming weeks with respect to the wonderful Chicago Home Theater Festival event I hosted at my home last week, but I promised to get recipes up asap, and so here they are!
But first…a few of the many great shots from the event:
The premise of the event was that the Burlesque Butcher would both be hosting and performing, and my performance involved creating meat-based passed hors d’oeuvres, a main course of roasted fresh ham sandwiches (accompanied by a demonstration on how to carve a skin-on fresh ham plus this particular ham’s “meat story”), and a small palate-cleansing dessert (necessary after all that meat!). The festival organizers paired me with three other performers (magician Tricky Ol’ Puss, burlesque dancer McKenzie Gilliam from Les Soubrettes, and singer/songwriter Dylan Wright), and McKenzie also served as my sexy appetizer-passing assistant.
Sadly we don’t have any pics of the hors d’oeuvres part of the evening (I’ve recreated a few pics below of individual appetizers à la tv), but look at all these happy eaters in my kitchen trying pieces of crispy ham skin!
Venison-sausage crostini with fig paste and caramelized onions
Smoked whitefish salad on radish rounds with fresh dill
Prosciutto-wrapped Medjool dates
Roast fresh ham on pretzel rolls with condiment assortment (garlic-wilted spinach, red pepper jam, caramelized onions, honey mustard, mayo)
Venison sausage crostini with fig paste and caramelized onions
(This recipe is incredibly easy–it’s mostly an assemblage of separate constituents.)
–smoked venison summer sausage (or any other kind of sausage similar to a summer sausage that does not need to be cooked and can be sliced into thin slices)
–fig paste (I like the organic brand available at Whole Paycheck in the cheese section)
–small crostini (I like the 365 brand organic “party toasts” from Whole Paycheck–yes…sometimes WP is not such a bad place, they have a few good things…and so, Whole Paycheck, you do want to be a Burlesque Butcher sponsor, right?)
–3 or 4 yellow onions
–neutral oil, like sunflower
–salt and pepper
1) Slice sausage into small wedges no wider than the size of your crostini (I like to cut the summer sausage into wedge-shaped pieces so that you can see the onions and fig paste below on the square toast and to give visual interest in the play between the square and the wedge shapes)
2) Make the caramelized onions:
2a) Slice 3 or 4 onions in half and then into thin slices (the thinner, the quicker they will cook)
2b) Sauté over medium heat, covered, in a couple tbsps of oil; add a dash of water if they start to dry out
2c) When nearly soft, add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a couple tsps of sugar, and some salt and pepper; keep cooking (covered) until the onions are completely soft and translucent making sure they don’t dry out
2d) Crack the lid, and cook over low heat until all the liquid evaporates (keep a close eye on them at this point to make sure you don’t burn the sugar); taste to check for a good acid level (you should be able to taste the vinegar but not too heavily) and check seasoning—cook a bit more if you need to add more vinegar so all liquid is evaporated
3) Assemble crostini:
3a) Spread toast with a thick, even coat of fig paste
3b) Top with a thin bed of caramelized onions
3c) Place a piece of venison sausage on the top
(Note: you could garnish this further with something like a wisp of roasted red pepper or, as pictured below, dried craisins.)
Smoked whitefish salad on radish rounds with fresh dill
(Note: this “made for tv” picture was mocked up using tuna fish, as all the whitefish got eaten at the event! The original was whiter in color.)
–smoked whitefish (you can use your own smoked fish or purchase some—Costco, at least around here, often has whole ones available in vacuum-sealed bags)
–finely diced celery
–good mayonaise, please no crappy soy-based mayo (I use Hain safflower oil mayonaise—my favorite brand…yes this is shameless product placement*)
–fresh dill sprigs
1) Make whitefish salad:
1a) Cut off a reasonably sized portion of the fish and flake the flesh from the bones, being very careful to remove any tiny bones; place in a mixing bowl
1b) Add the celery, enough mayo to evenly coat the fish flakes and celery (kind of like tuna-fish consistency), and add spices (dried dill, paprika, onion salt, black pepper) to taste
2) Slice the radishes into rounds crosswise about ¼” thick
3) Right before assembling, add a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice to the whitefish salad and mix in (I like to wait until just before serving as the lemon juice’s brightness wears off pretty quickly)
4) Assemble hors d’oeuvres:
4a) Spread a mound of whitefish salad on a radish round
4b) Top with a generous sprig of dill
Prosciutto-wrapped Medjool dates
(This could not be easier!)
(Yes, you could make these look a bit more appetizing with a fancy toothpick and some sort of garnish, but then you end up with a bunch of toothpick garbage…and these are so delicious just as is, in their slightly homely state of being)
–Medjool dates (Costco has value-packs of these for a great price)
1) Pit dates (I usually just sort of break open the dates with my fingers and push the pits out, although you could do something fancier like push them out with a skewer)
2) Wrap dates in prosciutto (I usually cut the slices in half and wrap one date with a half slice for my optimal meat-to-dried fruit ratio)
3) Cut in half for bite-sized pieces (this last step is optional, obviously, but they last much longer as passed appetizers this way!)
Roast fresh ham
(Adapted from Bruce Aidell’s Complete Book of Pork)
(And just a small feminist note…this is what a real, non-photoshopped, 5′ 7″, 127 pound, size 4 to 6 body looks like. Yes, I look chubby by magazine and fashion-industry standards. Which gives you an indication of how misleading and manipulated most commercial images of women are.)
–A non-cured “fresh” ham half (this is also called “leg of pork”—you can use either the knee (aka shank) end or the hip (aka butt) end—-but I prefer the knee/shank end because you end up with more crispy skin
1) Take a very sharp knife, like a utility knife (clean before using), and score the skin on the ham into diamond patterns; then use the tip of the knife to make tiny perforations all over the skin—this is so optimal fat can bubble out and make the skin properly crispy
2) Roast at 450 for 20 minutes; then turn the heat down to 300 and roast for 2 hours more, turning the pan around halfway through
3) Keep roasting until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees (use an instant-read meat thermometer in the thickest part (check every 20 minutes or so); keep turning pan every hour or so to ensure even cooking
4) Let ham rest for at least 30 minutes before carving, if not longer, draped loosely with foil
(Note: Many fresh ham aka leg of pork recipes suggest putting an oil rub of some sort on the surface. I’ve never really found this to be necessary. IMHO, just add complimentary flavors to the pork in the condiments and/or sauce(s).)
(Also: see a future post for how to carve a fresh ham roast!!!)
You can serve this really any which way…I like to offer small rolls and a variety of condiments so people can make little sandwiches and try out different condiment combos, but you can also slice and serve as a main course with sides (mmmmmmm homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and some sort of yummy greens). You can even make a pan gravy out of the crud in the bottom of the pan (but be prepared to drain off a lot of fat to get to useable drippings).
Some condiment ideas:
–sautéed greens of any sort (see recipe below for garlic-wilted spinach)
–red pepper jam (see recipe below)
–caramelized onions (see recipe above)
–honey mustard (either purchased or just mix some dijon with honey to taste)
–mayo (see above for my favorite brand)
–barbeque sauce of any sort, homemade or purchased
–Chinese plum sauce
–sautéed peppers and onions
–very, very thinly sliced lemons, rind-on (cuts through the fat well)
The meat, in the process of being cut up, with rolls and condiment selection:
–salt and pepper
1) Sauté spinach in olive oil with a tiny bit of water so the leaves don’t burn or stick to the pan
2) When spinach is starting to wilt, add garlic, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of rice vinegar
3) Cook until spinach is fully wilted
Red pepper jam
–red bell peppers
–neutral oil like sunflower oil
–salt and pepper
1) Slice peppers into thin slices or small dice
2) Saute in a bit of oil over low heat until peppers are very mushy
3) Add a couple tsp of sugar (depending on how sweet the peppers are naturally), a few dashes of rice vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste
4) Cook for a couple minutes to meld
5) Let cool, then purée in a food processor; check seasoning and add more vinegar or salt and pepper if necessary
(Ever so slightly adapted from this recipe)
(Yes, I am multi-tasking drinking wine and serving dessert…a girl needs to do what a girl needs to do toward the end of a party!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (I use Organic Valley cultured butter…makes a HUGE difference)
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs, large
2 tbsps lemon zest
2 tbsps lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar (the fair trade, slightly brown sugar gives these a better depth of flavor)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the tart lemon glaze:
4 tbsps lemon juice
1 rounded cup powdered sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish with butter and set aside.
3. Zest and juice two lemons and set aside (if they are large lemons you can get away with juicing just one of them).
4. Beat the flour, sugar, salt, and softened butter until combined.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice until combined.
6. Pour it into the flour mixture and beat for 2 mins at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
7. Pour into baking dish and bake for 23-25 mins, should turn golden around the edges.
8. Allow to cool completely before glazing. Do not overbake, or the bars will dry.
9. Filter (aka sieve) the powdered sugar and whisk with juice.
10. Spread the glaze over the brownies with a rubber spatula and let glaze set. (The original recipe calls for glazing with half the glaze, then letting that set, then glazing with the other half, and letting that set more, but I found it just fine to glaze in one step.)
11. Cut into bars and serve.
*Shameless product placement…Hain???? Care to sponsor me??? You know you will sell so much more mayo with a lingerie-clad tattooed lady actively hawking it…
(Also note: Hain’s corporate parentage got a lot better when Heinz pulled out in 2005…)
(Yes I am doing the classic advertising “cut of the model’s head so that you can put your own head on her body” thing…mostly because I didn’t like my expression in this picture! Sadly lost the magnetic letters spelling “mom” on the fridge in the cropping…see the very top picture for such hints at my suburban mom alter ego.)
I’m saddened that my first long post was prompted by unpleasantness, but I’m trying to turn that around in a constructive, joyful manner. Yesterday, radical animal-rights proponents viciously attacked me and several fans of the Facebook version of The Burlesque Butcher in response primarily to this picture:
Granted, it is an arresting image–slightly macabre and not something one sees every day: a woman lovingly kissing a roasted hog’s head. That woman is me, of course, and the action was captured this past summer at the end of another successful hog roast after I had spent at least two hours breaking down and portioning a 130 lb. hog for an event crowd of over 100 very appreciative people. I was full of emotion on so many levels…elated to have splurged on a proper sustainably raised and humanely treated hog for the second year in a row, proud of breaking down a hog carcass faster than I ever had before, melancholy because I knew this year was the last year for the event–a pending divorce and move away from the house I had lived and entertained in for a decade meant the 10th iteration of our annual hog roast was the last. And so, ever one to play to the camera, I picked up the hog’s head and gently kissed it on the snout–out of reverence, out of respect, out of admiration, out of joy, out of amusement.
To then have complete strangers attack me as barbaric, tragic, and worse, was not something I expected. For many months, that picture has served as my avatar for a variety of different forms of social media and not once did anyone object. Most people, knowing me and my near obsession with how improperly most livestock is treated and how much of each precious animal gets wasted because people no longer want to take time with cooking or eat the so-called cheap cuts, saw the love in that picture, the beauty, the gentleness. This was a hog whose favorite food was the expired and spilled chocolate milk from the dairy at which he was raised, a fun fact I had just learned when at the farm to pick him up two days prior. This was a hog who got to run around with his siblings in a large pen, dotted with mud puddles to swim in. (The dairy explicitly started raising hogs for meat just so they could productively use non-sellable milk from their lovely grass-fed cows instead of having to throw it out–it doesn’t get much better than that.)
And so I and some of the amazing fans who came to my defense got called psychopaths, sociopaths, murderers, attention hounds, “f*cking desperate for attention”, ugly, old, unhealthy, tasteless, shameful, would-be cannibals, and “more than a little dysfunctional” (that last one from someone who purported to be a mental-health professional, yet was making gross assumptions based on a handful of images). One woman hoped that I would be murdered (I deleted that comment, banned the poster, and reported her as abusive). Another woman accused me of mocking animals and “killing for pleasure”. I shudder to think at the insults that these same individuals would have flung had I instead posted, for example, this dynamic picture of me sawing open the pig skull to, in proper nose-to-tail fashion, serve the brain to interested party-goers (sadly, the brain had not been cooked long enough to eat–the fire had been a bit too low at the head end of the hog, and I was wary of taking it out of the skull and cooking it a bit more, given that it had been essentially sitting at what may well have been a danger zone temperature for the 6 hours of hog roasting).
Curiously, this assault on my page and my fans occurred while I was making turkey stock from the carcass of my Festivus party turkey–honoring the bird from beak to tailfeathers as much as is possible with a commercially produced Organic Valley turkey (obviously it was lacking things like the feet). I know these propaganda-blinded activists will never be convinced that meat eating can be done in a respectful and sustainable way, but it floors me that they can’t see I’m one of the good guys. If more people ate the whole animal, not just select parts, we would kill far fewer animals each year. And so here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your leftover turkey carcass, if you still have one sitting in your fridge.
I’m hoping my readers know how to make stock, so I will skip that explanation for now (but if you don’t, leave me comments to that effect and I can do a stock-making post sometime). So I added water to what’s in this picture, and let it do its thing. But you can get more than just stock or soup out of the carcass. One thing I do that I think many don’t is strip every bit of meat, fat, skin, etc. from the carcass after simmering. Some of this goes to the dog and some to me and/or whoever I might be cooking for.
Before I settled down to strip all the meat off the bones, I skimmed off enough soup for a late lunch, heated it to a simmer in a small pot, shredded a bit of the turkey from the soup, added some chopped carrots, and then immersed some pre-packaged gnocchi (which are a great! quick alternative to dumplings–you can’t always make every element from scratch).
Then I set to the task of stripping every bit of useable meat, skin, fat, and cartilage from the bones. I keep two containers–one for human consumption and one for the dog–some meat is too dry and all the skin, fat, etc. is too soggy. The dog, in fact, had been drooling the entire 6 hours the stockpot simmered on the stove–he knows he always gets treats on stock-making days. What one ends up with looks like this: a large pot of golden, rich stock; a container of shredded turkey perfect for putting back in the soup (although not all of it is suited for this purpose) or doing some creative repurposing; a container of treats for the dog; and a small bowl of bones.
It’s always astounding to me how little actually ends up getting thrown out (and yes I know there are good uses for the bones–the reality is that sometimes one can only do so much).
So what to do with all this shredded, somewhat spent turkey that has been picked from the carcass? I used to adhere to the line of reasoning that the carcass had given all its essence to the stock and just gave the dog all the soup-soaked meat. And yes, it can be kind of sawdusty in texture after being simmered for 6 hours (not to mention the fact that often the parts that go in the stock pot are those that got overcooked, like the ends of the wings), but with a little cooking magic, tasty concoctions can be achieved.
One of my favorite uses for this meat is to make croquettes–you add back flavor and moisture. (Another is turkey, noodle, and veggie casserole with lots of creamy sauce.) Here’s how I make croquettes (and sorry for not having step-by-step photos…I was hungry and documenting slipped my mind):
Shred some meat fairly fine. Add some grated onion (the grating helps disperse the moisture from the onion better throughout the mixture), some torn parsley leaves, some breadcrumbs (I prefer panko, but you can use whatever), an egg or two or three depending on the volume you’re making, s & p, and paprika. Mix together and gradually add in a bit of liquid until you have a consistency that will hold together into a patty (I prefer heavy cream, but milk works fine as would broth or even water). Form into patties and fry over medium heat in a combo of butter and oil until nicely browned. Serve with leftover jus, gravy, demi-glace, or just naked. A runny fried egg is nice on top too!
And of course, since I got to eat my dinner, Magellan the Newfoundland gets his too after so patiently waiting!