The Most Improbable Cranberry Relish Recipe Ever

Cranberry Relish

The most improbable cranberry relish recipe ever is my friend’s mom’s brother-in-law’s mother’s from the 1950s, and it even beats that one that they read each year on NPR for utter strangeness.

I grew up eating cranberry from a can, and since cooking my own Thanksgiving have sought each year to find a recipe that uses fresh berries and tastes more interesting. Each year I make something that I don’t hate, but never something that I would be excited to make again.

So I went to Jet to see what she knew, and she said that the best cranberry relish was super simple. “You just dump in an orange, a lemon, a lime and an apple and grind it all up.” “Oh, that sounds great,” I said, but what I was thinking was more like, “There’s no way.”

Jet sent me the recipe later, and we just had to talk about it. By admitting that she knew it sounded like an utter disaster, she convinced me to at least try it. Really, if you make this, and every fiber of your being isn’t screaming that it will never work, you’re doing it wrong.

This recipe will be the true test of the quality of your food processor. By the time I had gotten done making the relish, Sam had done enough googling to find a good deal on a Breville food processor, in the hopes that he would never have to listen to that much grinding ever again.

Also fair warning: this makes enough to feed a small army. I ended up freezing some to serve with cheese for a Christmas plate.

Mabel Jeldy’s Cranberry Relish

1 package of fresh cranberries
1 lime
1 lemon
1 orange
1 apple, cored, stem removed
1 cup of toasted pecans
1 cup of assorted white dried fruit

Pulverize everything (peels and all) in your food processor.  Work in batches if you need to and combine everything in a bowl.  Season to taste with salt and, if you think it isn’t sweet enough, a little honey.

Up next: Jet schools me in beans and greens.

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Posted in cranberry sauce, thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Kitchen Remodel and Other Projects

It’s time for the big reveal! Time for everyone to ooh and ah and generally agree that it was totally worth it.

Before

After

In case it isn’t totally clear, we removed two walls. Although that set of cabinets in the right most side of the first pic looks like it could plausibly be part of the kitchen, there was, in fact, a wall separating it completely from everything else kitchen-esque. When we first saw the house it was pretty clear that the kitchen could be awesome, but honestly, I didn’t even expect it to be as great as it turned out to be.

I haven’t been talking about the remodel much because what is there to say? Fully half of our belongings were without places for a month, and I had to wash dishes in the bathroom. And while, yes, I hated every last second of it, I’m also smart enough to know that if your biggest problem on any given day is that you have to wash dishes with your hot clean running water in a different room from the one you are used to, you should probably just stuff it.

My absolute favorite part of the remodel is the new walnut counter top that Sam built. I love it because it is deeply deeply beautiful, and also because it has Sam’s work all over it. It is custom, and perfect, and really, just look at it. The fact that Eleanor whacked her head against it less than five minutes after it was installed, and well before Sam had a chance to soften the edges with a sander, and ended up with three staples in her scalp after what felt like an interminable trip to the doctor did slightly dim my enthusiasm, however. I did go out an buy those edge protectors for toddlers (!) pretty much immediately after we got back from the doctor. Poor kid. It was rather traumatic for her. That whole numbing cream business seemed to be less than thoroughly effective.

In other news, I signed up for a half marathon in February. Don’t worry, I have no intention of turning this into a running blog. I read some running blogs that I genuinely enjoy, but I’m continually struck by how little there is to say about running itself – went for a run, felt some feelings about it, the end. I signed up because I needed a goal – something to drag me out of the torpor that the chaos of the remodel has induced, and this seemed likely to do the trick. I am already behind on my 12 week training program though, so it’s not working yet.

Finally, I did cook Thanksgiving this year, but mostly I did exactly the same stuff I always do, so there isn’t much to report. Thanks to Jet, I did make one new recipe, and I have to share it because it is the most improbable cranberry recipe you’ve ever seen, and also totally, unbelievably delicious. It will be coming up next.

Posted in meyer lemon, thanksgiving, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Mixed Grill

Maybe a decade or so ago my Father-in-Law lived in Brazil, and Sam and I went down for a visit. One of our evenings there, he took us for dinner at a Churrascaria. It was this sort of mind-blowing experience where waiters with large skewers of meat would swing by the table and cut up something for you, and every time you looked up another waiter was ready with a new confusing meat, that you might maybe recognize, but it’s hard to tell because of all the Portuguese. I remember really loving every second and also swearing on all that was holy that I would never in my life eat that much meat in one sitting ever again.

And mostly I have maintained this resolution. But when Jet proposed a mixed grill night to welcome Sam home and celebrate our purchases, I couldn’t resist.

Jet, having participated in the Jolly Oyster’s birthday bash last August, received a credit of as many oysters and clams as even the most enthusiastic shellfish eater could consume in a year. So we began the feast with those. We also ate chops (both lamb and pork), pork shoulder, lamchetta, and mini burgers. Jet brought octovin and chimichurri to serve with the meats, both of which were incredible.

Things I learned from the experience:

1) Really, a grill and a blender are all you need for an excellent meal. Jet continues to be right about this even though I am still keeping things as simple as possible while the kitchen reno is underway by buying dinner at Whole Foods.

2) A trip to meet the lamb lady is in order. That meat was crazy good.

3) If you actually have some dry-aged ground beef on hand, and you are still adding things to your burgers for flavor, or even really topping them with anything, you are doing it wrong. I had no idea ground beef could be that good.

4) Lambchetta is nuts, and also very very delicious.

For anyone who might be concerned about the lack of vegetables, Jet did bring some of the cutest pickles ever as well. She had just made them, and had to share. Are these not the cutest pickles ever made by anyone?

Posted in lamb project, pork project | 3 Comments

Merguez

You have probably heard the whole thing about not asking how the sausage gets made? Well, I’m here to tell you to just hang that ish up right now because knowing how sausage gets made is downright awesome.

Jet and I decided to give up our ground lamb in favor of Merguez. I had been really curious about it since reading a recipe spread by Suzanne Goin in Sunset Magazine where Merguez is the centerpiece. And Jet has had a thing for North African cuisine for some time. So Jet hatched a plan to beg Kent to let us try to season our own Merguez, and to my surprise Kent went for it. Like I said before, he seemed to be in some serious pain from a back injury that day. He might have been delirious. I don’t expect that this is something that he usually goes for anyway.

Here are the ingredients:

Sheep’s Casings
Kosher Salt
Ground Fennel Seeds
Ground Corriander Seeds
Chipotle Chili Powder
Ground Cayenne Pepper
Ancho Chili Powder
Ground Cumin Seeds
Ground Caraway Seeds
Dried Red Cili Flakes
Sweet Paprika
Sugar
Ground Black Pepper
Lamb Trimmings
Finely Chopped Jalapeño
Finely Chopped Red Onion
Finely Chopped Minced Garlic
Water
Finely Chopped Fresh Oregano
Finely Chopped Scallion
Finely Chopped cilantro

The crew ran the whole deal through the grinder a couple of times and then into casings. And frankly, the casings are the only part that I still don’t get and might potentially squick me out a bit. Perhaps don’t ask how the casings get made?

Anyway, here’s what it looked like

Makes me wish I knew how to animate pictures or something.

Also, in following up with the last lamb post, the distinction between lamchetta and lamcetta is that the first is the lamb version of porchetta, and the second is the lamb version of pancetta. But since literally nobody ever gets either, there isn’t a highly developed terminology around these cuts. The lamb has not seen the same culinary treatment we have given the pig, I guess.

Meanwhile, we grilled some chops last weekend, and it is hands down the best lamb I have ever had. I’m so grateful to have it and so excited to try some roasts!

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In Which the Meat thing Gets a Bit Out Of Control

So far in this animal buying process, Jet has been the voice of reason. When Kent first tried to sell us on a lamb, I was ready to jump all in, but Jet very reasonably said that perhaps we ought to get comfortable with our hog before we went about buying more animals. Ditto when Lefty tried to sell us a goat (People, he has goats! Aren’t you so curious to try one?) and when we started talking to cattle ranchers. So when Kent circled back around to the lamb thing a couple weeks ago, I kept my mouth closed and immediately called Jet. But when she said that she was into it, I did a little dance of joy. Getting meat this way is seriously great, and I was so excited to do more of it even though I’ve barely begun with my hog.

Our lamb came from a woman in Moorpark who is married to a veterinarian, and together they raise a small herd of lambs every year. This year, one of her buyers had backed out extremely late (like after the lamb was already at Old Fashioned Country Butcher), and we got lucky by walking in at the right time.

It was a bit of a rush to work out exactly what to do with the meat in terms of cuts. As you can guess, there are a number of options here, and instead of having weeks to ponder, we had a couple days. Jet went to town with her Whole Beast Butchery book though, and came up with a great plan for each of us. Fortunately the guys at OFCB are absolutely the best, and  I was finally able to get my crown roast prize. Jet got some things that she calls Lamchetta and Lamcetta, and I honestly don’t know what is what there, but perhaps I can convince her to explain herself in an upcoming post. Really, I was just so moony looking over at my beautifully Frenched rack that I missed some details.

I got:

  • Bone-in shoulder
  • Bone-in leg
  • Crown Roast
  • Shanks
  • Some loin meat for grilling that I can’t quite explain, but will look into
  • 5 packs sausage
  • Belly, which Jet took and has some plans for that I also don’t understand but trust will be awesome.

We also somehow managed to talk Kent into letting us season our own merguez sausage, and the only way I can even explain that is that Kent had recently hurt his back, and must have been delirious. I’m going to get a list of the seasonings and post them here along with pics in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile, enjoy butchery pics below. Continue reading

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Where Have I Been Anyway

So I’ve been relatively quiet in my little part of the blogosphere for a while largely because I just haven’t been cooking. And the main reason I haven’t been cooking was that I had no one to cook for. (No, the kids do not count. Talk to me about it when they are adults.) Sam spent the last two months at the Collegeville Institute doing some intensive writing. And I pretty well subscribe to the for-the-love-of-God-don’t-publicize-your-absences-on-the-internet school of internet protocol, so I haven’t even wanted to share the fact that Sam was gone and I wasn’t cooking. All this to say that I am intensely grateful to Jet for sharing her writing here and keeping the discussion lively in Sam’s absence.

The other big news is this:

– the kitchen remodel is finally underway! (Yes, we let the kids draw on the wall before we took it down.)

It’s a little hard to see here, and hopefully I’ll be able to throw together a post on what we did when it is all actually done, but essentially, our house had a small U shaped kitchen with a hall and more cabinets on the other side of the bottom of the U. We’re knocking out the bottom part of the U (where the tree is in the above pic) and one of the sides to both make the kitchen bigger/more functional and to open it up to the great room next to it.

Here is where I pause to reflect on just how grateful I am that Sam is both capable of and willing to tackle construction projects. Seriously. It is so cool to see him working on the house, and he is so good at it, and yesterday a dessicated rat fell out of the ceiling onto his head and instead of just giving up (which would have been my strategy) he laughed at it, and all of that put together makes me insanely happy, which helps because also living without walls feels really unsettling.

To my way of thinking, no walls or stove means that I just call Three Amigos every night and we deal. But Jet has almost convinced me that thinking this way when I have a functioning grill and somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 lbs of delicious meat in the freezer is utter insanity. She’s threatening to follow me around reading Seven Fires out loud if I persist in this deluded way of thinking. And she’s not wrong, but what can I say? The kitchen remodel has thrown me off my game. I’ll probably try to grill some sausage this weekend, but I’m not promising much.

Why is there suddenly 125lbs? Well, good people of the internet, we got a lamb! More on the how/why in the next post along with an in-depth look at how the sausage gets made. (Spoiler Alert- Despite what you may have heard, it’s not gross!)

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Momofuku To Go

Thanks again to Jet for keeping this blog going during my long silence. I will write more about the reason for the long silence in a post this week, but until then, please enjoy the latest! – Christiana

In the very beginning of thinking about our pig, I knew the Momofuku Ramen was a, if not the, must do.  I was looking at an early game plan email, which, sort of comedically presumed we’d get about 10 times as much loin and shoulder as we did.  Even then, the Momofuku Ramen was the Holy Grail.  This recipe has been very thoroughly embraced and documented by the blogosphere.  The thing I don’t hear anyone saying about David Chang and Peter Meehan and their brilliant book is that, counter-intuitively, it is an essentially American story about American food and American business.  While I love love love love many cookbooks, like the way David Chang loves fried chicken, this is a total favorite.

Christiana has already, somewhat faithfully, recounted her experience with the broth.  I had waited for our bacon to actually make it because it seemed important that, after waiting for 3 years, we have 100% ReRide Ranch Almond Finished Berkshire Cup O’ Noodles. Seems silly, right? I purchased the belly and bacon of another hog to make the pâté on the slaughter day.  The reality is that I am shocked so many food bloggers actually purchased the meaty neck bones, pork belly, pork shoulder and bacon required for the recipe, not to mention the whole chicken, three chicken backs, konbu, nori, onion, scallions, carrots, shiitakes, usukuchi, sake, mirin, bamboo shoots, collards, eggs and etc…, then spent two days making it and documenting it.  For me, this 30 page recipe sort of presumes you already have half a pig in the freezer.  You can read about the recipe here or here or here.  I have a  few takeaways…..

1) Tare is bird flu sick.  The book says you can make it or substitute soy sauce. Disregard that advice.  The Japanese barbecue sauce resulting from roasted chicken backs sautéed in soy sauce, sake and mirin, has no substitute.  Michael and I stood in the kitchen sucking the meat and fat out of the spent backs and I’ve been splashing it on everything for the past 24 hours.  Really, you could brush it on ANYTHING, like chard, for example, to make it epic.  Tare is truly brilliant.  It is also zero additional work in the context of the two day cooking marathon required for a dish Americans mainly remember from college when they ate it because it is really cheap, takes no work to prepare, and MSG is every bit as satisfying as wild chanterelle mushrooms.

2) I have no business with a couple of pounds of home cured pork belly confit.  It is so delicious, I keep wandering into the kitchen for another slice.  With tare, it borders on sublime.  Really, there isn’t enough oatmeal and fish oil to make me believe this behavior is OK.  Also? It yields over a cup of rendered fat and a quarter cup of insanely delicious, gelatinous, porkiness which is richer and darker than Demi Glacé.  Chang and Meehan suggest adding pork jelly to anything that would benefit from a glossier mouth feel, which is everything.

3) In the early stages of thinking about actually doing this, I was sure we should plan a party.  It seemed sort of sad to imagine the two of us standing around in the kitchen slurping ramen made from so many luxe ingredients after so much work and we’d have ten servings.  Kent  sold us a lamb this week [FOR REALS: more on this development soon – ed], and, unexpectedly, I found myself with an appointment to have it custom butchered on Monday, following a weekend in which we had nothing planned.  Deconstructed Cup O’ Noodles obviously wanted and maybe even needed to be served to Christiana and Kent after sorting out how to cut up our lamb at the Old Fashioned Country Butcher.  Michael and I did have our noodles alone, but we sat in the living room and talked and laughed about how great they are.  It wasn’t sad at all.

4) You should totally pickle the spent shiitakes.  They are awesome.  Again, in the context of cooking pretty steadily during all waking hours for 2 days, they don’t seem like added work.  Christiana and momofukufor2 make much of Chang and Meehan addressing options for the spent konbu and shiitakes, yet remaining silent on the whole boiled chicken.  To me, this was the center of their sales pitch. Everyone knows a gazillion things to do with boiled chicken.  Many may find the $9 worth or mushrooms and the “only for dashi” konbu a barrier to entry.  There is a lot of discussion online about the spent bacon.  I used the scraps from ours and pitched it after boiling it for 45 minutes.  Not uninterestingly, Michael’s first question when taking out the trash was, “Why are you throwing this bacon out?”

5) You will feel smug when you crack your perfectly poached forty minute egg out of the shell and into your bowl of piping hot bowl of mushroom and pork infused dashi with noodles, collards, pork belly, pork shoulder, bamboo shoots and nori.

Buy a hog from Lefty, have Kent butcher it, buy Momofuku, make the ramen and tell us about it.  It is an awesome experience for any semi-serious home cook and provides many happy hours of planning, execution and reward.  Momofuku Ramen scratches the very deepest comfort food itch.  In fact, it is so awesome I am concerned, knowing how killer it is, that I will find other soups wanting by comparison.  As much fun as this is, it certainly isn’t feasible as part of the weekly rotation.

A final note – I am so grateful to Jet for sharing this with me, because we all know that I wouldn’t have followed the recipe as faithfully as she did. I loved it. Jet described the ramen as a really smart recipe, and I think that is on the money – delicious, interesting, just a tiny bit challenging. I’m so glad I got to experience it! – Christiana

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