Cleanin’ Out My Cabinets: Chicken Scrapple

I’ve previously referred to how my cooking interests follow a similar cyclical approach to flight patterns.  When you live near an airport, sometimes your home is under the pattern for a few weeks, then it just goes away and you barely notice.  The potential for scrapple to be made with other primary ingredients than hog innards is an idea I’ve been thinking about about a lot recently.  I’ve mostly been focused on how I can use scrapple to hide vegetables from Janet and package them in a crispy form that she has shown a love for in the past.  Parenting is mostly about deception and force feeding.

A couple weeks ago a friend from business school asked about ways to add meat to an infant’s diet which made me think of the subject of this post.  I think of this as chicken scrapple, but as my wedding caterer said, scrapple is just pork polenta, so you could really think of this as chicken polenta too.  My main goal was to make something that was close enough to regular scrapple that I still enjoyed it but also use ingredients Kristi would be willing to consume.  It all started with a couple chicken breasts and four thighs, all skin on and bone-in.

Oh, and a daughter doing water colors.  She's, uh, not that good at this painting stuff yet but I think that's excusable since she is just over 2.  However, I will be freaking the f*ck out if she hits two and a half and is still painting outside the lines

Oh, and a daughter doing water colors.  She’s, uh, not that good at this painting stuff yet but I think that’s excusable since she is just over 2.  However, I will be freaking the f*ck out if she hits two and a half and is still painting outside the lines

Each piece got a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of butcher salt then headed into a 450F oven to brown.  After just over 10 minutes I had this.

That center piece may have gotten a little more color than I hoped.  Maybe

That center piece may have gotten a little more color than I hoped. Maybe

The chicken and grease all headed into the stockpot with some celery, a halved onion, a bay leaf, smashed garlic cloves, sea salt, and black pepper.

At this point I guess every foto feels like one that has been used before on the blog, but especially ones that show me making stock

At this point I guess every foto feels like one that has been used before on the blog, but especially ones that show me making stock.  And yes, I scraped every last bit of chicken fat from the pan into this pot.  Just like my mommy taught me

The idea was to make a stock in the process of cooking the chicken that would give the scrapple lots of flavor when mixed with the corn meal.  I added about 10 cups of water to fully cover the contents of the pot then turned the heat on the burner up to high.

Dece color right away.  Hey!  Guys!  Somebody arrest me!  I'm a STOCKER!  I like to think I am good at humor and stuff

Dece color right away.  Hey!  Guys!  Somebody arrest me, I’m a STOCKER!  Wokka Wokka!  I like to think I am good at humor and stuff

I brought the contents of the stock pot up to a low boil then reduced the heat as low as it would go, put the lid on, and let it simmer for an hour.

After an hour I removed all of the meat and aromatics from the cooking liquid and discarded the celery, garlic, bay leaf, and half the onion.  The meat all pulled easily off the bones and I separated the chicken into dark and light meat with the cooked skin in the dark meat pile as well.

Not sure if I was attempting an optical illusion with the two bowl sizes but the white vs. dark meat was essentially equal volumes

Not sure if I was attempting an optical illusion with the two bowl sizes but the white vs. dark meat was essentially equal volumes

The broth stayed on the stove uncovered over medium heat to reduce a bit and hopefully concentrate the flavors of the stock.

The white meat I cut into small chunks and then chopped the dark meat, skin, and the half boiled onion down to a minced texture.

The white meat.  I wanted it to keep some texture so it would stand out in the scrapple

The white meat. I wanted it to keep some texture so it would stand out in the scrapple

Original plan was to run this through the grinder like the last scrapple but I was feeling lazy and didn't want to wash all of those parts.  So, I did a much poorer job by hand

Original plan was to run this through the grinder like the last scrapple but I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to wash all of those parts.  So, with a lot of effort and multiple spills onto the floor, I did a much poorer job by hand.  Logic!

At this point the stock had been bubbling and reducing for 15 minutes or so and had a strong flavor and aroma.

Pretty excited for football season for the football but also for the gigantic pots of chili and soup that I make while watching football.  My guess is I make the first batch on an 80 degree day and don't want to eat it

Pretty excited for NFL season for the football but also for the gigantic pots of chili and soup that I make while watching football.  My guess is I overzealously make the first batch on an 80 degree day and don’t want to eat it

With everything prepped, I added a few pinches of dried thyme, sage, and nutmeg to the stock and stirred them in completely.  Then slowly started whisking in white ground corn meal until it was too thick to whisk anymore, about 3 cups total.  The goal was to get it to a thick cement-like texture, so I switched to a large spoon and stirred in approximately an additional half cup of corn meal. Unfortunately at this point the corn meal needs to cook in the stock for 30 minutes, stirred constantly.

Basically the same thing as polenta at this point.  Just brutally thick polenta.  Really basically the same thing as cement too

Basically the same thing as polenta at this point.  Just brutally thick polenta.  Really basically the same thing as wallpaper paste too

The chopped and minced chicken meat headed into the corn meal and stock along with a couple handfuls of frozen corn and the long half hour of stirring began.  Lots of whining and complaining about the pain in my forearm ensued, plus some flexing and making Kristi feel my forearm while pretending I was Robert Irvine or something.

It was a pretty miserable thirty minutes and any time I took more than 30 seconds off from stirring the polenta burned to the bottom of the pot

It was a pretty miserable thirty minutes and any time I took more than 30 seconds off from stirring the polenta burned to the bottom of the pot

The cornmeal chicken mush got spooned into foil loaf pans that I had previously sprayed with a little Pam to prevent stickage.  Although I originally planned on making far less scrapple this time around, I think I made more than last time.  But, this one won’t taste like hog liver pudding so I will (hopefully) actually go through it relatively quickly.

Had to pull in the glass pyrex for the the last bit in the pot which was immediately earmarked for consumption the following day

Had to pull in the glass pyrex for the the last bit in the pot which was immediately earmarked for consumption the following day

After cooling on the counter until they were down to room temperature, I covered each loaf pan with foil and transferred to the fridge to set completely overnight.  Once set, each loaf was popped out of its pan, individually bagged, and vacuum sealed for the freezer.  But the round one needed to be sliced and eaten the following day (or so I told myself).

Held together far better than the last batch.  I knew to push the thickness as much as I could this time around to make a sturdier loaf

Held together far better than the last batch.  I knew to push the thickness as much as I could this time around to make a sturdier loaf.  That sentence sounds terrible

The scrapple went into a hot pan with a little olive oil to crisp on both sides, then served traditionally with a couple over-easy eggs.

Likely to be seen on weekends in the Ryan household through the end of 2013

Likely to be seen on weekends in the Ryan household through the end of 2013

The scrapple had a lot of flavor and the texture that I love in scrapple; crispy outside with a soft texture inside.  It went perfectly with eggs, particularly the rich flavor from the yolks.  Not quite as rich and meaty as the pork version, but a decent substitute that might be a little bit better for you (though I am the last person you can trust on that type of assertion).

While eating it with breakfast, I had a thought that it would go equally well as a dinner course as well.  So later in the day (and again a week later) I served it griddled crispy with a little sweet & spicy marinara and grated parmesan cheese.

I kinda over smothered this one, but there really is scrapple under there.  Or lets call this one chicken polenta

I kinda over smothered this one, and over cheesed it, but there really is scrapple under there.  Or lets call this one chicken polenta

The sweet sauce and the cheese work really well with the scrapple, even if Uncle Timmy thinks it is sacrilege.  Stupid nerdface overgrown cucumbers Tim.  I will likely use this both ways in the future since this was equally delicious and easy.  And, Janet likes it too, which was the original point anyway.

Next week I will get back to those rotten trout parts.

Pete’s Recipes: “Not too much” Chili

The five soups/stews in my rotation for Souper Sundays (the adorable name I use for making a massive amount of food before the work week) are: chicken vegetable, mushroom barley, hambone, roasted vegetable, and chili.  The first four have been covered to varying degrees on this blog, but I’ve never talked much about my chili so I figured it was time to address it.  Also, I didn’t want to do two WCIC posts back to back so this was the only alternative.

I love chili and the best part is that it will be good with pretty much any meat you have in your fridge.  However, over the years I’ve found myself incapable of making a reasonable amount of chili and always end up with a ridiculous amount that I could never finish.

With painstaking precision and effort, I’ve finally figured out how to make enough chili for exactly five large, filling lunch portions.  It’s not traditional, and has a couple odd ingredients, but at least you won’t end up with extra frozen chili in your freezer that nobody would ever willingly eat.

Here’s what you’ll need:
1 medium onion
3 tbsp chopped garlic (about 5-6 cloves)
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5-2 lbs meat
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 beef bouillon cubes
12 oz beer
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can black or pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
salt & black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325F and heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large oven-safe pot with a heavy lid or a medium dutch oven (I use ‘lil blue).  Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and garlic.

When you do this you should stir the onions and oil together, not just leave them all piled up on one side, k?  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if you didn’t have me in your life.  Piles of half burned, half raw onions, that’s what!

Once the onions have cooked for 5-10 minutes and become a bit translucent, add in 1.5 to 2 pounds of meat.  It doesn’t really matter what you use for this recipe, I generally use ground turkey or chicken or both, but in this case I used a little leftover cubed pork tenderloin and some freezer burned chuck steak.

Most chili-diehards would say that the ingredients I use aren’t part of a real, traditional Texas chili.  My counterpoint would be that I use a wooden spoon, so it must be pretty traditional

Season with salt and pepper to taste and brown the meat, stirring regularly.  After a few minutes there should be some liquid that has cooked off in the base of the pot and the meat should no longer have any red or pink on it.  Add the cayenne pepper and the onion/garlic/cumin/chili powders, then stir well to completely coat all of the meat.

A good sniff of the contents of the this pot would likely cause some coughing and sneezing, but the spiciness gets well distributed and becomes way more mild than it smells once the other ingredients come in

After a few minutes of cooking the meat, onions, and garlic with the seasoning, pour in 12-16 ounces of beer.  I like to go on the 16 end of the spectrum especially if there is more meat, but it means you will have to drink the rest of the beer.  Cry me a friggin’ river.

Once the beer is in the pot, raise the burner temperature to high and heat until the liquid starts to bubble.  Then throw in those two bouillon cubes that you didn’t understand why they were on the ingredients list.

Dats some good bubblin’.  The wooden spoon stayed in most of the shots just to remind people of my chili street cred

The bouillon cubes mostly came out of a plan to compensate for the lack of meaty flavor when using turkey or chicken in chili.  So I tried a couple bouillon cubes, and when combined with beer it was basically like adding a half carton of beer flavored beef broth.  Certainly not a bad thing.

Once the liquid reduces by about a quarter, add in the can of crushed tomatoes and stir well.

I used to hate chili because I couldn’t stand warm tomatoes; soups, sauces, anything.  Got over that in my late teens.  Sometimes these little stories about overcoming my strong opinions on food make me sound far less like the stubborn jackass that I actually am

Once the tomatoes are well stirred in and heated up a bit, put the lid on and place in the preheated 325F oven for two hours.  I recommend you spend that time closing the doors to ever room that contains clothing in your apartment and putting all of the jackets in the closet, unless you want to smell like the kid who is cooking chili in his pants.

After two hours you can remove from the oven and take the lid off.

I love this part of the oven-cooked chili/bolognese/baked beans process.  Always looks so angry, spicy and thick until you stir together and make sense of it all.  Or at least that’s how I think about it

Add the can of fully rinsed beans and the cup of corn.

The biggest issue with every insistent traditional chili advocate (frigginjerkBrotherTim included) is that if you’ve ever had chili with corn in it you would never ever go back.  It’s just better

After a good stir, the lid goes back on and the pot heads back into the oven for another hour.  Which will leave you with this:

Thick chili is the only kind of chili worth eating, no one wants chili soup.  Type that up in a word document and save it on your desktop with the file name, “important stuff from pete.doc”.  Thx

Once it comes out of the oven, you can take the lid off and put the pot over medium heat for few minutes if there is excess liquid you’d like to cook off.  You can also taste and make any last minute seasoning adjustments you see fit.  I occasionally add a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar to give a hint of contrasting sweetness, which is a nice touch in chili I think.

That recipe should make about 7-8 cups of thick and hearty chili, great as a lunch or even better as a nacho topping.  The best part of chili is that you could add any of the leftovers in your fridge and likely make it even better.  And, as always, just remember that I have no idea what I am talking about and what I am doing so the last thing you should do is follow a recipe I made up.

Weird Crap I Cook: Turducken

I had Turducken for the first time 4 years ago after ordering it frozen from Hebert’s Specialty Meats, the originators of the concept.  It was good though painfully salty even for a salt lover, so I decided if I was going to have it again I would have to make it myself from scratch.  It just took awhile for the perfect opportunity to come again.

With plans to host a Christmas party for a few friends in Boston, I knew the time had come to attempt the prep-heavy and slightly difficult turducken.  For those unfamiliar with turducken, it’s traditionally a deboned chicken, inside a deboned duck, inside a deboned turkey, with layers of cajun stuffing in between each layer and at the center.  Pretty crazy concept.  Basically, you are fitting all of this…

Not sure if it will be noticeable, but we got a new camera and I'm hoping it helps us take better pictures

Into this…

Only the second time laying down newspaper in a kitchen after the tuna head. I knew this was going to get extremely bloody and messy, just hoped none of it would be my blood

I’d never deboned poultry before and definitely had some concerns.  At the same time, it seemed like the type of thing that just required a sharp boning knife and the patience of making lots of small cuts.  The only planned difference between the traditional version and mine was that the middle layer would be chicken instead of duck since the duck I had in my freezer was very small.

Since the turducken should look like a regular turkey when it’s fully assembled, you want to keep each outer layer intact except for the initial cut on the backbone. Aside from navigating around the shoulder blade, the early going is (relatively) easy.

This took maybe five minutes. I went with the chicken first since the duck was small and would be tough to navigate and the turkey needed to have minimal flaws since it's the outer layer. To make my turducken feel better, Pete Ryan's outer layer has a lot of flaws

The chicken and duck layers are completely deboned, including the thigh and wing bones, but the first step is to remove the rib and back area.

Kristi deserves credit for the awse photos in this post and my equally awse apron (with "Weird Crap I Cook" and a picture of the hogs head barbacoa on it). That bad boy got dirty quick

Once you get around to the keel bone (the bone that separates the chicken breasts) you start on the other side from the backbone again.

This felt like switching to the other side of the bed after a year of sleeping on the same side; there was no way to mimic the muscle memory of the first side. Cutting away from me was easier than spinning it and approaching it from the opposite direction

After 10-15 more minutes, I’d arrived back at the keel bone and had to cut the cartilage away from the skin to keep the deboned chicken intact as one piece.  Leaving me with this:

I'll try not to go into this kind of self indulgent detail with each bird. I just thought the whole process was interesting and showed off that I'm good with a blade. Comes from growing up on the tough streets of the 07924, yo

After popping the thigh and wing bones out (easily the most annoying/difficult/messy part of the whole process) I rolled it back up before putting it in the fridge and starting on the turkey.

I think that deboning a single bird, stuffing and roasting it has a lot of potential. Stuffed chicken breasts are always disappointing because the breasts get so dried out, but this thing with crispy skin and stuffed with prosciutto, garlic and spinach would be absurd

Next up was the turkey, which I found to be the easiest bird to debone since it is the largest and the leg and wing bones stay in.

I know, I know, I can't believe I still have fingers to type with either

By the overall standards of the day, I pretty much flew through this thing (in 20 minutes).  The owner at Hebert’s can debone all three birds in something like 17 minutes.  While impressive, the work it took to gain that proficiency is about as enviable as being married to someone who makes you spend your Saturday taking 200 photos of him butchering poultry.

Don't worry, I hate wasting food and I certainly was leaving a little meat on the bones, so I saved the carcasses and other parts for future soup/stock making. Really sorry I made you worry

Onto the duck, the bird I knew was going to be a pain in the ass from the second I saw how small it was.

No, I don't have a cartoonishly ingrown fingernail on my middle finger, I was just squeezing extremely hard to maintain a grip on the tiniest piece of this mangy bird

I love duck, but deboning it didn’t really blow my hair back.  This was a roasting duck, so there just wasn’t much meat to work with.  I had hoped to use a full sized duck, since the local Stop and Shop had them recently, but I had to go with the subpar one in my freezer.

On to the final shot of the duck (prior to considering intentionally stabbing myself to end the annoyance of removing the thigh and wing bones)

Duck looks and smells like raw beef. Weird stuff

With the deboning finished in just under an hour and fifteen minutes, the poultry was unceremoniously dumped into a giant bowl for an overnight stay in the fridge.

I laughed like a psychotic thinking about the babysitter we had Saturday night looking for food in the fridge and stumbling across this

From there I got the bones all bagged up and labeled for the freezer.

This would be a ridiculous thing to do if we didn't make so much soup in the Ryan household

It was time to get started on the most important part of the turducken; the stuffing.  That change from bloody, messy butchering also meant that Janet could return to the kitchen with her magic, gravity-defying chair.

"Yeah, so, daddy, I know you've slowed down with the Purell use recently but I'm going to have to go ahead and ask you to start using it before anytime you come near me. Great, thanks"

Since I don’t have andouille readily available, I decided to start out the stuffing the same way Tim and I start our (regionally) famous “Stuffing of the Gods”.  I sauteed chopped onion, garlic and celery in a little butter for a few minutes before adding a pound of sausage meat.

That's right ladies and gentleman, a fourth animal has entered the meal. Possibly a 5th and 6th too; that tube of sausage looked like it was purchased on the resale market or something

After the sausage had browned, I added a half pound of cubed brown mushroom, 10-15 fresh chopped sage leaves, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and lots of paprika.

"Half pound of mushrooms" has become about as common an ingredient on this blog as salt and pepper

So, finally, it was time to add in the bread from the original ingredient picture that I had been letting get stale for a couple days.  It was really just the 6 slices of wheat bread that needed it; the cornbread was about a week old at that point.  I cubed the slices, let the cornbread break apart on it’s own, added more spices and a little chicken broth, leaving me with this.

This stuff was freaking delicious and had a great spicy heat. I was a little overly concerned about saltiness at this point, meaning that the stuffing could have used a little more seasoning, but it was still pretty diesel

And with that I was ready to throw in the towel for the day; I let the stuffing cool down then added it to the fridge with the birds.  That’s right folks, we’re not even halfway done with this post!  You still got a lot more partial reading, rapid scrolling, and deep exhales at jokes that fall flat left to do!  It’s my Christmas gift to all of you, even those that don’t celebrate Christmas; like one gift to unify everyone.  I don’t think people are making a big enough deal out of this.

The next day I was up and at ’em and handling poultry far earlier in the day than I wanted to.  It was time to put this baby together like an edible Lego airplane stuffed with passengers.  Started with the turkey, pressing the stuffing into every nook and cranny.

Just in case you were wondering, I still have grotesquely long fingers that bend the wrong way. I also know how to stuff the living sh*t out of a turkey

Then the chicken and another generous layer of stuffing.

Not sure if you noticed the two strings laid under the birds in advance which proved crucial. Really I am just trying to distract you from the hands that look like a Karloff-era Dracula

And finally, the duck with a central pile of stuffing.  Looking down at this pile of poultry and stuffing, I started to realize that the hardest part may still be ahead.  I hadn’t really processed that I would need to eventually tie this all back together to look like a regular turkey.

I'm thinking this apron will need to be retired in 4-5 years when Janet starts bringing friends over. Except when the WCIC apron is in the wash, then an exception needs to be made

Bringing this thing together was a process that would be difficult to describe.  Basically, it was a lot of pulling outwards, pressing together, and tightening of the two strings I had laid underneath the birds.  So here are three photos to explain part of the process:

Seemed impossible at this point

Starting to see hope with one string tied

Getting it to this point was 75% of the battle. This whole process is exhausting to review

Now come the poultry lacers, something I’d never used before and always thought were tiny fondue skewers or something when I had seen them in people’s kitchens.   When pressed into the turkey (and the layers below) they would give me anchor points to pull the whole shebang together.

Brilliant concept, but totally unclear to me what these are used for aside from turducken

Like lacing up a pair of sneakers, I wound some kitchen twine through the holes and pulled tightly to bring the center together.  Ended up looking very manageable.

That's a pretty dece looking sneaker

With that, the turducken got flipped right side up in a roasting rack, received an ample sprinkling of salt, pepper, and cajun seasoning, plus a few pats of butter to keep the skin moist.

Would have gone with my usual method for keeping turkey skin moist by putting a couple slices of bacon on top, but decided it would be a little excessive. In reality we finished the bacon with breakfast and I was pretty bummed

After covering with tin foil, the turducken went into the oven at 250F for what figured to be 6-7 hours of roasting.  I planned to remove the foil halfway through cooking once there were enough juices in the base of the roasting pan to baste the skin.

With the ‘ducken cooking, the only remaining item was making stock for the gravy.  So, the turkey and chicken necks headed into a pot with onion, garlic, celery, and carrots before being completely covered with water.

Broth the way my mommy taught me, to make gravy the way she taught me. I don't even know if it's the right way, but it's the way I like my gravy to taste

With the bird(s) in the oven, I realized why roasts, ham and turkeys are such great entertaining food; you don’t have to do anything until carving time.  Over the next six hours I overheated in my tacky Christmas sweater, listened to Now That’s What I Call Christmas four times, and toasted the surprise engagement of Buschy and Annie.  Mostly, I thought about the Turducken.

Finally, the internal temperature had reached 165F, and the ‘ducken was ready to be pulled.

I had a feeling I couldn't avoid burning the skin in the center and by the legs. It was stretched pretty thin in those spots

While the meat rested for 30 minutes, I pulled the roasting rack out of the pan, cut off a couple of the outer strings, and drained off some fat to get started on the gravy.

I know I've said this before, but it really looked just like a regular turkey. Janet agreed with me too

Gravy is pretty easy to make (as outlined previously on this blog), basically you whisk flour, salt and pepper into the pan drippings until it’s well mixed and there isn’t any excess liquid.  Let that cook in the pan for 10 minutes or so, whisking regularly, then stir in broth until the gravy is the consistency you are looking for, heating as you go.  Only wrinkle for this one was that I added a splash of Southern Comfort for sweetness, flavor, and because it’s been in the damned liquor cabinet for 3 years untouched.

I over-floured this one just a little bit. It showed when the gravy sat for fifteen minutes and poured like an extra-thick milk shake

It even had a little bit of a Cajun look to it. You could see the paprika in the color

Now for a quick photo series I like to call, “Anatomy of a Near Christmas Disaster”, as documented by Nathan McConarty, Esquire. (I promise this post is almost over, this is just a brief sidebar before the final two fotos and descriptions).

The stupidity just oozes out of this one. "Let's put a towel under the cutting board so it doesn't get the other easy-to-clean cutting board underneath dirty. Just wait one moment while I lift this slick plastic cutting board supporting a precariously balanced roasting rack holding 15 pounds of meat."

Annnnnd the only rationale outcome from the previous statement has been realized. I love the looks on Kristi's face and my face, pure "OHHHHH NOOOOO!!!". Luckily, the Shaws Cupcake tray brought by Sarah Busch stopped the turducken before it rolled off the table and exploded on the floor. Christmas disaster averted

With that scare done, it was time to get eating.  The coolest part of carving a turducken is the realization that what you’re looking at isn’t a normal roast turkey.  Instead of carving thin slices parallel to the body, you cut straight across the body in thick slices.

You can clearly see the layers from this shot; duck at the bottom, then chicken, then turkey, with the sweet sausage stuffing in between each layer

Although not my most often used utensil, the electric carving knife is crucial for turducken (thanks Ken and Carolyn!) since the meat would be pulled apart by anything less than the sharpest traditional carving knife.  The goal was to cut it into 1/2″ slices that could be transferred to the platter whole so all guests could “oohhh” and “aahhhh” at the layers.  I said that was the goal.  My guests got a scrambled version for the most part, accentuated by cursing and holiday surliness.

Each slice looked a little different and featured a different amount of each bird and stuffing. Interesting food

Not much to be said about the turducken (which must seem like BS after wasting an hour of your life reading this post).  The process and unveiling of the finished product is almost as important as the actual eating, just very cool to see it all come together.

Taste-wise, the stuffing was moist from cooking inside the three birds and the sausage, cornbread, and cayenne helped distribute salty/sweet/spicy flavors throughout the meat.  With each bite you never knew exactly what bird you were eating since they were all very tender, though the turkey ended up a little dry.  Nothing a little pour (read: slice) of the far too thick gravy couldn’t alleviate, though, and all in all it was pretty delicious.  Well accompanied by Nate and Emyo’s cheesy taters, Con and Trish’s broccoli raab and shallot, and the future Buschy’s roasted vegetable soup.  Bawmb.

In the end we ate a lot more of it than I’d expected; Kristi and I had one night of leftovers and then we made an awesome stew with the remaining turkey from the ends.  Not sure what I will be posting next but we are looking forward to 5 days of over-the-top eating in Michigan for Christmas.  Merry Christmas to some, Happy Holidays to others, but mostly just enjoy the day off and cook something good.  Cheers!

Chicken Liver Mousse

Growing up, one of the meals in the Ryan family rotation was “pate night”.  That’s a fancy way to say we had cheese and crackers for dinner along with some slices of summer sausage, liverwurst, and teawurst.  Over the years as the offerings at Kings in Bernardsville improved, this meal evolved a bit to include various country pates and liver mousses.

From that early exposure came a lifelong love of poultry livers in all preparations for me.  Among my all-time favorite preparations are the yakitori goose livers I had in Hong Kong, chopped chicken livers from Jewish delicatessens, and anything served with an unnecessary slab of seared foie gras.  I’d never attempted to cook any of those dishes myself but ever since Mooman casually cooked and put out a plate of delicious chicken liver crostini on one of my visits to his house, I have wanted to give it a try.  Plus, chicken livers are cheap so the stakes are low.

I don’t think this is that weird of a food item but the pictures tell a different story.  Regardless, let’s go with WCIC as the category for this one but not put it in the title, OK?  I got started by roasting some garlic.

This is a great way to roast garlic. Break apart the bulb, peel off excess skin, cut off the stem ends, coat with a little olive oil and cook wrapped in foil for one hour at 300F. I keep the roasted cloves in the fridge for use as an ingredient

After an hour plus cooling time, I was ready to dive in.  Here is another one of those lineup shots I enjoy so much.

I have seen CB brandy before, but usually in the hands of people who keep all of their earthly possessions tied up in a bandana around a stick. I hope that someday I will be good enough at cooking that I am not exclusively using the cheapest alcohol I can find as ingredients

Back to the livers.  The pound and a half you see cost about $2, and at the time I took this picture I was still too scared to actually open the container.  Eventually, I realized I would have to in order to cook them.

About what I expected, but still pretty funky lookin'

I poured these directly into a colander for a good rinsing before cleaning and trimming them.

Look, there isn't going to be a pleasant photo for anther 2 or 3 and even then you aren't in the clear. If this is not your cup of tea, take a break until the shallot and roasted garlic show up again

I had to do some research on how to clean chicken livers.  It’s mostly just trimming fat and connective tissue off, cutting out any spots that are green with bile, and rinsing away any blood vessels.  Not too appetizing, but not too different than trimming any other meat.

No idea why the livers have a whole color spectrum but I am concerned that if I look into it I will never cook this again

Out of the pound and a half of livers, I ended up with about a quarter pound of throwaway parts due to generous trimming.  The livers went for another rinse and then into some paper towels to dry.

Now that's an ominous shot! All it's missing is a shaky hand slowly reaching out to lift the top sheet and then jumping away in terror

While the livers dried, I chopped up a shallot and 6 or 7 of the smallest roasted garlic cloves.

No really good reason for using the smallest cloves aside from the larger ones being easier to save and use later

These went into a hot saute pan with butter and olive oil for a few minutes before adding the livers and a good amount of salt and black pepper.

Exhaust fan was on high and Kristi was napping. Janet asked to have her seat turned around so she could look out the window instead of watching this, though

After five minutes, a half cup of brandy joined the party.

First time cooking with brandy since our "chicken on the couch" flambe at Christmas in 2007

The brandy cooked off for a couple minutes before I removed the pan from the heat and let cool for ten minutes.

Oddly, the thought of taking a bite out of one of the livers at this point was disgusting to me, but a half hour later I would be tasting the pureed version for seasoning without a second thought

The contents of the pan went into the food processor with a splash of half and half, more salt and pepper, a tablespoon+ of curry powder and a little sugar.  I was really guessing on what spices to use since I saw allspice recommended on a few sites and I am not a huge fan.  So, I went with curry powder for no good reason aside from liking the combination of curry powder and chicken.

Like a chicken liver smoothie, the smoothie of choice for a body like this DB

Instead of pouring directly into the dish it would set in, I saw a good suggestion online to press the puree through a mesh sieve to get a finer consistency.  So that’s what I did.

I expected this to be pretty easy, but it was actually a messy process. Probably lost about 1/8th of the mousse through various mishaps and hijinks

After a lot of pressing and cursing, I ended up with this:

Just under 2 cups of mousse. Much like the head cheese, I had/have no idea how I am going to go through all of this

The mousse needs to set in the fridge for at least a few hours, but according to the intranets, it is at it’s best a couple days later.

Made a decent dent in the mousse so far, hoping to force some visitors to eat it this weekend

The biggest difference between the taste after a few hours versus a couple days is that the less appetizing flavors of chicken livers mellow out a bit.

Didn't make any bread this week, so the mousse has mostly been consumed on triscuits or stone ground wheat crackers. The stone ground wheat ones are better

The flavor of the mousse was on par with some of the best chicken liver varieties I have tasted, which is more a representation of how easy it is to make than my skills.  The liver flavor isn’t overly strong but you definitely know what you are eating.  The less prominent flavors of curry powder, black pepper, and a little sweetness from the brandy and sugar all work really well together.  Really good, and an additional dish to make if I am ever asked to bring charcuterie to a dinner party, which becomes less likely with each additional post like this.  Bonus post-feeding Janet shot time!

70% of her body mass is in her stomach and head, definitely a Ryan

Next week will be a post from Long Beach Island, home to my favorite clammin’ grounds.  Since I’ve covered clams pretty well, I hope to give a shot to butchering and cooking yellow fin tuna collar.  We’ll see if that works out.