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.

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Pete’s Recipes: Stuff to do with Bones

Sorry for the inconsistent posting.  Seems like I need to start loosening my standards for what is bloggable or remember to take pictures when I do make interesting stuff.  I made an awesome pizza the other day with braised short rib, caramelized onion, mushrooms, and roasted garlic with the reduced braising liquid for the sauce.  That woulda been a blog but I didn’t think it was compelling enough.  On the other hand I buy 3 pounds of cod cheeks and make a dece meal without remembering to take a single picture.

Anyways, long way of saying I’m in a blogging rut.  I love doing this and hope to continue for many years, but I’ve gotta start writing about my less bizarre work.  Now that I’m starting a new job I am hoping to settle into weekend cooking and mid-week posting.  We’ll see.

So, since this happens to lots of people that aren’t me, let’s talk about what to do when someone gives you a giant bag full of beef bones.

I think Tim got these as part of his grass fed beef CSA. I guess I should change that to "I hope" since I wouldn't want to know where he got a couple trash bags full of large mammal bones otherwise

On a recent visit to NJ to visit the Ryan family, Tim pulled a few large bags of bones out of his freezer and asked if I would use them since he was planning to throw them out.  Of course I was unable to refuse the bones despite having no idea what I would do with them.

After a couple days of thawing, I pulled the bones out of the fridge.  There were a lot, like 10+ pounds I would guess.  I also would guess that the average grass fed beef CSA participant gives these bones to a dog.  But that would be boring, so I picked out all of the bone segments that had a clear pipe cut and placed them in warm water to soften the marrow.

Honestly, I don't really know what "pipe cut" means, but I think it refers to bones cut perpendicular to the bone so that the marrow center is visible from both sides. Means that once they are softened they can easily be pushed out with a finger

The goal was to extract the marrow from any bones possible, then place all bones (marrow or not) in a pot to make a demi glace-like sauce base.

After 5-10 minutes in warm water, you pull the bones out of the water and press on the marrow with one finger from the end with the smaller opening.  The key is trying to cover as much of the surface area of marrow with the pad of your finger to avoid it squishing around the edges.  It should pop right out.

That was the largest chunk of marrow I had ever seen

Eventually, you should end up with a plate that looks like this:

About 1% of my readers will actually look at this picture and see the delicious potential. The rest can feel free to make "we are the 99%" signs and Occupy ADB

Now that the bone marrow is out, it can be used a few different ways.  You can flour and deep fry it to serve as an extremely indulgent appetizer or a more reasonable decision is to use it as a sauce enhancer.  Reduce equal parts red wine and beef broth, melt in sliced up rounds of marrow, and you have a really ridiculous sauce for any beef dish.

Since I’ve already gone down the frying path, I decided to individually wrap them and freeze them for later use.  First they need to soak in cold salted water to get out some of the blood and firm up a bit.

For those who would never consider attempting this, marrow feels like very solid butter and smells slightly like an unlit natural candle

After an hour or so in the water, I pulled them out and let them drain/dry on some paper towels.

Looks a little different after the bath. More white

Then individually wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and transferred to a bag for the freezer.  Simple to do, and easy to pull out and use whenever you are planning a sauce for a red meat dish that could use a punch of beefy richness.

Future plans for these bad boys include a roasted bone marrow, sherry and mushroom gravy for a hunters pie and possibly using it as the fat source when making sausage with lean meat this winter

Even once the bones are emptied of the marrow, they can still be used along with marrow-intact bones to make demi glace-like sauce or concentrated flavor paste.  Start out by preheating your oven to 400F and putting all of the bones seasoned with some salt and pepper in a large pot.

The one on the far right was a freaking monster, had to have weighed a couple pounds on it's own

Pot goes into the oven for an hour.  Be forewarned, this is not going to be an awesome smelling hour in your kitchen and possibly your home.  It smells like some combination of rendering fat, burning candles, and petroleum jelly.  Just very unpleasant, but if you can wait out the hour things will take a turn for the better.

After an hour, pull the pot out of the oven.  Smear the bones heavily with tomato paste (easier said than done when the bones are over 300F on the surface) and cover with a 4-5 smashed cloves of garlic, 3 peeled and chopped carrots, 3 sliced ribs of celery, a large yellow onion, and some more salt and pepper to taste.

The celery looks a little odd since it was attached to a celery root and a little immature. Flavor wise it was great, just a thicker skin.

After another hour and a half in the oven the smell in your home should turn in a much more favorable direction and the contents of the pot should look like this:

The vegetables almost completely disappear due to the high heat

At this point, it’s a good idea to pour off the large amount of rendered fat in the bottom of the pot (since the marrow should still be inside the bones).  Ordinarily I despise the idea of removing the flavorful fat, but it has to be done or else the liquid will have a hard waxy shell when cooled.  Straining is a tricky process, I usually just cover partially with the lid and pour off the oil.

Once you’ve strained off as much fat as you can, return the pot to the stove top and pour in a bottle of red wine and at least 4 cups of water until the bones are completely covered.

This is just after I added the wine and water. You can see how much darker the liquid was right away

After a few hours of a lightly bubbling simmer the liquid should reduce by a little over half, and generally the contents of the pot should look completely inedible.

Every time I do this I am amazed by how burned the top looks when all the heat is coming from below

Turn off the heat, let it sit for a bit, then bring your trash can over to the stove to dispose of all of the bones after giving each a good shake over the pot to make sure all of the liquified marrow has come out.  Then run the remaining contents of the pot through a strainer over a bowl.

If you let this cool a bit before turning on the heat, you can skim off a lit more of the excess fat

At this point, the contents of the bowl would make a great jus for a beef dish or base for an amazing soup.  But, if you want something more concentrated that can keep for a couple weeks in the fridge or months in the freezer, this can be further reduced by heating at a low boil for another hour.

It's a lot of dirty cookware and work for 2 cups of concentrated sauce, but it's worth it for how much flavor it adds to red meat dishes

After the liquid has reduced by half, let it cool to room temperature and pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it in easy to use single servings or, if you plan to use it all in the near future, put it in the fridge.  Once at fridge temperature, it will look like this.

The yellow is the hardened remaining fat that I couldn't skim off. It can be used or avoided depending on the dish. Looked a lot like Vegamite I think, another favorite of mine

The great thing about this stuff is how many concentrated flavors it adds.  Beyond the rich beef flavor, you can taste the carrots, celery, onions and red wine strongly.  A spoonful can make the ground beef or lamb in a shepherds pie 10x better or help the flavor in any beef or mushroom based soup.  Definitely came in handy when making the steak and kidney pie.

Thanks to Tim for the bones (friggin’ jerk).  Next week will be a Foraging for Food I am thinking.

Weird Crap I Cook: Heart and Bones

As I made clear with the Hogs Head post, I am a big fan of challenging myself to cook foods I have never attempted to cook before. We spent the past two months living in our old Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain that has a wealth of grocery stores that carry meats and vegetables you don’t see in many other stores. After wandering the aisles one day earlier this summer, I decided to attempt a meal of ox heart and marrow bones. This post is about that process.

I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do with the marrow bones. I’d seen an Iron Chef where they popped the marrow out of the bones and then pan fried them leaving soft pieces of marrow with a crispy outside. Sounded awful for me and delicious, a combination I have relied on over the years for excessive weight gain and torn inseams.

First step in the process was done two days before the meal. The bones were soaked briefly in warm water to loosen the marrow up from the inside.

The stoner working the register said, "let me guess, you have dogs." and then stood there in slackjawed terror as I explained my plans for the bones

This process took place while Kristi was sleeping. Probably for the best

After the bones soaked for 10 minutes or so the marrow had softened enough to pop them out of the bones.  I did this by pushing from one end with my thumb.

I've posted pictures of pigs heads and bug eating, but for some reason this picture seems like the most disgusting one on here. The term "red rocket" comes to mind

This wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped it would be but I was able to successfully harvest the marrow from five of the six bones.  The marrow went into a bowl of heavily salted water and then into the fridge.

Bones were reserved for making stock. I know this doesn't look appetizing...

So I made cupcakes to offset it (actually because Kristi requested them for her birthday). Its her Grandmother's lemon icing recipe which surprisingly didn't call for any organs or bones

Back to the bones and marrow.  The idea is that the salt would pull some of the blood and liquid out of the marrow and make the pieces a little more dense.  I replaced the water with freshly salted water 6 times over the two days and the marrow looked noticeably different by the end.

Although the water looks gross, I was just happy that stuff was getting drawn out of the marrow

For the heart I decided to make a dish that would have similar flavors to a traditional osso bucco.  The first step was to use the leftover bones to make a stock that would be the base for the liquid that the heart meat would cook in.  I started by browning the bones in a pot for 30-40 minutes.

Just bones in a pot with olive oil, celery salt and black pepper

About halfway through the browning I rotated the bones and threw in a handful of onions and carrots.

Really enjoying the super zoom's contributions to this blog

Added 6-7 cups of water plus about 4 ounces of V-8, 4 ounces of red wine and brought it to a boil.

Always makes me happy when the color is right

Lowered the heat to a simmer and left it uncovered while I watched Shutter Island with Buschy.  Pretty dece, though I was a little Leo overloaded after seeing Inception the night before.   This is how it looked after three creepy, atmospheric, and well-cast hours:

Pulled the bones out and poured the rest through a strainer which yielded...

This. I skimmed some fat off once the liquid settled and stuck it in the fridge for use the following night.

With all the major prep work done I was ready to make an unseasonably heavy dinner. On an 85 degree night in a house with no AC.

First course was the pan fried marrow.  All it required was a pan of hot oil and a pile of flour mixed with black pepper.

I had been thinking about this dish for some time and was Christmas morning-level excited at this point. The soaked and dried marrow is on the left.

Into the fryer. Notice the metal backsplash that looks like an insane TGIFridays worker's lapel? That's Con and Trish's magnet collection. But I am a dork for having a blog. YeeeeeeOK guys!

Since marrow is so rich that its almost like the beef version of foie gras, it made sense to accompany it with lemon, parsley, and salt.

This was the piece I fried solo as a test batch. Since I hadn't taken a bite yet, its safe to say I was freaking out at this exact moment

It was definitely nerve wracking cooking each piece since the marrow melts if you cook it too long or it doesn’t get crispy if you cook it too little.

Like churros, but with marrow inside

Crispy outside, soft and buttery inside. I didn't get an in-focus shot because I was rushing so I could eat more

Conman's Lord of the Rings hobbit-style knuckles make their first appearance on the blog

Not sure I would do it again due to the effort required, but it was a pretty solid payoff.  Its tough to describe it, but despite the strong flavors of the parsley and lemon, the most powerful flavor was beef.  But very different than meat.  Rich and decadent.  Again, tough to describe.

I look like a hand model compared to Conor

Now, onto the main course: heart.

Pretty much how you expected it to look

The butcher did some light trimming, removing the gristle-heavy top and adding a few cuts so it could be laid out flat.

Also pretty expected, but I didn't let Buschy see this view so that he wouldn't rule out tasting it

Underneath a lot of membrane, external fat, and gristley areas (venticles is an awful term but that’s what they were), it’s just a giant muscle.  So I butchered the heart down to the best of my (subpar) abilities and then carved it into 1/8th inch thick slices.

When it's broken down, its not that different from raw sliced flank steak. Completely devoid of intramuscular fat, though

We ended up with about a pound and a half of beef from the two+ pound heart.  I used my mom’s veal marsala method for cooking these; lightly flour each slice, quickly sear in a pan with butter and olive oil, then create a sauce in the pan to finish the cooking in.

See, it's just beef

Once the beef was out, carrots, onions and garlic were thrown into the pan to cook for a bit.

The base of pretty much everything I cook

To start the osso bucco-style sauce, I stirred in most of a small can of tomato paste.

It doesn't matter what I ended up mixing in to this, you knew it was going to be edible at this point

At this point, things just started flying into the pot.  First it was the pot of stock I made the day before and a half bottle of red wine.  Once it bubbled, I added some uncooked portabellas, the seared heart meat, and seasoning.  The flour from the strips of meat helped thicken the sauce.

Again, it was over 80 degrees inside the house. This is stick to your ribs, snow day food. Not sure what I was thinking

As it simmered for ~30 minutes, we all seized the opportunity to dip some baguette in the sauce.  The familiar flavors went a long way towards making everyone comfortable with what they’d be eating.

Good god this was delicious. I just wish it was 50 degrees colder outside, not too much to ask I don't think

In the final fifteen minutes of cooking I added a final piece of bone marrow that I had reserved.

Almost forgot about this and would have been very bummed if I had

There was a noticeable difference in the richness of the sauce once the marrow was added

The heart and mushrooms were served over fresh cooked spinach.

Not the prettiest plate of food, but tasty

Some pieces of the meat were a little chewier than I had hoped, should have simmered it lower and slower.  But the flavor was solid, the meat definitely had more flavor than regular beef.

See, its just beef

And once we’d finished all the meat, there was still sauce to dip in.

I made Con and Trish save the leftover sauce in their freezer. I am a jerk.

I wouldn’t change anything about how I did the marrow, but I would have made some changes on the heart dish.  Less flour (to make the sauce thinner for simmering), more time for the meat to simmer, and serve it over something heartier than spinach like lightly mashed skin-on potatoes.  The flavor was right but it wasn’t everything I had hoped.

And that was wayyyyy too long a post.  Off to Italy for 10 nights, will have a cluster-eff of posts when I return hopefully.