I've been practicing my sauce making lately, and when I came across fresh yuzu for the first time, I thought they would be wonderful to replace the lemon juice traditionally used in a Hollandaise sauce.  Yuzu is a citrus fruit grown throughout Eastern Asia and used heavily in Korean and Japanese cuisine.  I've had prepared yuzu products, from bottle yuzu juice to jams and sauces, but this is the first time I had the opportunity to work with the fresh fruit

First, yuzu is not at all like a lemon or lime, and not nearly as user-friendly.  Two yuzu the size of large limes will give you about 1 scant tablespoon of juice and around 40+ seeds.  With a thick rind and tons of seeds, there's not a ton of juice.  But what makes this variety of citrus so special is hidden in that rind.  Zesting the pebbly rind released wildly intense aromas of lemons and limes, but also grapefruit, pineapple, and super floral cantaloup.   The juice carries these flavors, too, but with a muted intensity when compared to the rind.

Lots of Seeds per Fruit!
As hollandaise sauce is so rich with eggs and butter, I thought a nice, thick cut of white fish would be perfect.  The market was advertising some beautiful Alaskan halibut under the peculiar title "America's Favorite Steak," While I found that slogan rather...odd...I went with two 3/4" thick filets.
Whisking in Yuzu Zest to the Hollandaise
 The one thing I've found about making a hollandaise or bernaise sauce is to have everything prepped and ready to go.  Once you start whisking those eggs, you don't want to have to mince herbs, poke around for a serving bowl, or fiddle around with a side dish.  If the eggs overcook, all is lost.  Everything should be prepped, measured, and ready to go.  Then, you can just focus on getting the eggs cooked perfectly and slowly adding in the butter.  So I whisked together 3 egg yolks in a double boiler until thick like sour cream, then slowly incorporated butter.  Finally I added in the juice of two yuzu, some salt, and lastly, the zest.
Seared Halibut over Asparagus with Yuzu Hollandaise
Before getting the sauce on, I blanched the asparagus and seared the halibut, then popped the halibut to finish cooking in the oven.  Once the sauce was finished, I piled up the asparagus to top with the halibut, then poured over a generous dollop of hollandaise.  I've also found that prewarming the plates, although a bit fussy-sounding, really helps to keep the hollandaise from chilling and gumming up.

I don't know when I'll get a chance to work with fresh yuzu again, but I would remake this recipe in a heartbeat.  Granted, anything topped with hollandaise is going to taste good, but the exotic flavor of yuzu really made this dish stand out.  But those exotic flavors are very fleeting.  After dinner, I took a taste of the leftover yuzu hollandaise and found those volatile oils in the zest had lost their vibrancy, leaving me with a sauce that had a bland, cooked-lime flavor.
Frosty weather has descended upon central Pennsylvania, so our house was in need of a winter warm-up.  I spotted a recipe for a Tourtiere du Shack in the Au Pied du Cochon Sugar Shack cookbook.  At first glance, this recipe looks like a pot pie gone ballistic.  And that's pretty much was this dish is; a tourtiere is a name for a Quebec cooking vessel, but now is more of a generic name for a meat pie covered in a crust.
Tourtiere Overflowing with Goodness
A recipe like this is a perfect example of why I love Martin Picard's recipes; he takes a simple recipe and makes it completely over-the-top.  Granted, some of his recipes can be pretty complicated, but this one is just a simple savory pie with a last-minute show-stopping garnish.
The filling of the pie is pretty simple: saute bacon, then onions, then button mushrooms, then some lovely ground Berkshire pork from North Woods Ranch, and then a shredded potato.  To moisten the filling, I added the gelatinous stock from a Berkshire pig's foot.  This took the longest amount of time, as the trotter needs a long time to break down the skin and collagen.  But one large (2lb) pig foot will provide you with plenty of excess trotter stock to use in future recipes.  Some garlic, thyme, and black pepper completed the seasoning for the filling.
Mixed together, this filling gets loaded into a pie crust, covered with the top crust, and brushed with egg.  Baked for an hour until golden brown and bubbling.  Now, at this point, the Tourtiere looks and smells awesome.  But this is where Martin turns the volume up to 11.  Take the pie out of the oven, and slice off a big circle of the top crust.  Use your largest spatula to lift the top off the pie in one large round.

This is where things really get intense.  Take a small wheel of stinky cheese and cut off the top and bottom rind.  I used a small wheel of Munster d'Alsace.  Leave the rind on the sides of the cheese to act like a girdle and keep all the rapidly melting cheese from spilling out.  Place the cheese in the center of the piping-hot tourtiere, give it a few turns of the pepper mill, then load on the toppings.
A Small Wheel of Munster d'Alsace Melting into the Pie
Toppings?  Yup!  Saute up some small cubes of potato, a few ounces of foie gras, and plenty of fresh parsley.  Load all that up on top of the cheese and put the tourtiere back in the oven to melt the cheese.  Now, if that sounds crazy, I actually scaled back Martin's suggested toppings, which included the potato and foie gras, but also sweetbreads, brains, more bacon, and arugula.
Trimming off the Scrag Ends of a Lobe of Foie Gras
The result is a pie just spilling out with goodness.  Crispy crust, warm savory center, gooey cheese melting over everything, and all the delicious little nuggets added at the last minute.  It's totally extravagant, but also simple.  All he did was cut the top off and add extra garnishes to give it this overflowing appearance.  You could do the same thing with anything on hand.  A chicken pot pie garnished with cheese curds and cubes of sauteed ham.  Or go cajun with crawfish tails and andouille sausage.  For the holidays, you could do a venison meat pie topped with chestnuts, cubes of roasted butternut squash and red currant sauce.  A recipe like this really leads itself to lots of imagination and personalization on the cook's part.
Bluefish gets a bad reputation as a "fishy fish," so I was surprised to see it as a reoccurring feature on the menu for a chef I work under.  Bluefish is a great canvas for robust sauces, he explained, especially ones involving black pepper, lots of acidity, or strong spices. While talking to him about his affinity for bluefish, he gave me the wonderful idea to try curing it.  Really? "Bluefish has a similar fat content to salmon, so it takes to cure really well."

My father-in-law, Carl, was also a big proponent of eating bluefish.  Whenever we would go to the Outer Banks, Carl and Matt would catch a mess of small bluefish.  Cleaned and cooked that day, they were perfect served plain with salt and pepper.  Carl would always smirk when people gave him odd looks for saving the bluefish, rather than tossing them back in hopes of something fancier.  "They don't know what they're missing," he mused.

As I approached this recipe, I felt encouraged by my past experiences cooking bluefish...but those were small North Carolina bluefish.  For curing, I had a larger New Jersey blue with an oval body the size of a small Coho salmon.  Still, the meat smelled clean and fresh, despite its dark, ruddy-colored flesh.  I cured it simply, with salt, brown sugar, and dill.  I added a bit of caraway and white pepper for seasoning, wrapped it up, and stashed it in the fridge for three days, flipping once a day to distribute the cure.
Cleaned Bluefish and a Head for Stewing
Opening the package, the fish smelled nice, but looked a little lumpy.  It didn't have that nice, sleek, smoothness of  salmon.  After rinsing off the spices and excess cure, I let it dry out in the fridge for a night to firm up.
When it came time for a brunch of bluefish on toast points, I was excited but hesitant.  Slicing into the fish, it came off in a nice little rosette.  The meat was savory, tender, and not anymore fishy than cured salmon.  Granted, if you don't like smoked salmon, I don't see this converting you.  But it was surprisingly mild, especially considering how strong large bluefish can get if not cooked right away.  I served it with slices of pickled beets, which added a nice acidity to cut the richness of fish.  I would definitely do this recipe again, possibly side-by-side with cured salmon as a duo to compare and contrast.
"I'll get the two-egg omelet, with a side of black pudding and coffee."  I have no idea where I was when I ordered this, but I do remember the conversation with my two college friends, Mikey and Jim, that followed.
"You know what that is?" asked Mikey.
"The pudding?  No," I truthfully replied.  It followed bacon, ham and sausage in their listings of meat sides on the menu, so it seemed to be in good company.
"That's cooked blood," Mikey informed me, with the verbal intonation that I had just ordered a drowned rat.
"You'll like it; it's good," came Jim, encouragingly. "I get it a lot at the Greek diners home on Long Island."
"It's a Greek thing?" I asked.
"Nah, but you can get anything at a Greek diner."
Berkshire Pigs Blood
When the plate came, two little black rounds were served to me on a tiny ceramic plate.  They tasted meaty, salty, and completely non-threatening.  But, as with a lot of organ meats and odd cuts, blood makes people turn their nose up, again like I was offering up a drowned rat at the potluck.

This also means that it's hard to get black pudding, blood sausage, etc, as most people don't want it.  Whenever I've seen it on a menu since, I've ordered it, and still probably only had it six or seven times in my life.  So when I saw North Woods Ranch was selling their Berkshire blood by the pint, I was thrilled!  Bringing the order home, Carla asked if I picked up a couple.
Blood Swirling with Cream

"I'm....I bought ten pints," I confessed.
"Of course you did," she gently teased me.  I have a very understanding wife.

While at Pigstock, I helped to collect and chill the Mangalitsa blood, and then assisted a bit with making head cheese with blood and a large diameter blood sausage.  But I've never actually made blood sausage by myself, start-to-finish.  I went with a classic Boudin Noir recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook, as it seemed to be the simplest and most straightforward.

Starting out, I expected the blood to be temperamental and hard to work with, like making a delicate hollandaise sauce.  Much to the contrary, the blood was a joy to work with and very easy to handle.  I diced pork back fat into 1/4" cubes, then simmered them to help them cook (since they need more cooking to soften and the blood just needs to set when it cooks.  While that cooked, I mixed blood with cream, bread crumbs, sauteed onions, quatre espices spice mix, and fresh thyme.  Oliver at North Woods told me the slaughterhouse had added salt to the blood to keep it from coagulating, so I poached a mini blood dumpling and found no additional salt was needed.  At the end, the combined mixture was like a loose batter, with small cubes of fat mixed in.  I just funneled the blood into casings and tied them up

In reading various recipes, the main area of disaster in making boudin noir seems to be in the poaching.  Too high of heat and the sausages will burst.  The Au Pied de Cochon cookbook remarked that if you have a large enough volume of water at a boil, you can just turn the heat completely off and the residual heat will cook the sausages through.

I tried that method in my three gallon pot and it worked perfectly.  The water was still above 200 F when I lowered in the cold boudin noir, which rapidly dropped the heat down to 180 F.  After about 20 minutes the sausages' internal temps were just peaking over into 160 F.

Slicing one open, it looked beautiful.  Creamy, brick red, and dotted with small, tender cubes of Berkshire fat.  For dinner that night, I went French Bistro style and sauteed the boudin noir to serve with mashed potatoes and sauteed apples.  The next day for lunch I tried it more casually, on half of a whole grain baguette with pickles and lettuce.

Taste-wise?  Well, while I'm sure I can improve as time goes on, I can honestly say this was the best boudin noir/black pudding/blood sausage I have ever had.  Not to sound arrogant, as I don't think it was so much my skill, but the freshness of the final product.  A lot of blood sausage is frozen and shipped from the few plants that do make it in California or New Jersey, then thawed out and reheated.  The comparison would be buying frozen, vacuum packed scallops compared to cooking a scallop fresh - the initial quality begets the quality of the final dish.  The boudin noir was delicate, gently spiced, and surprisingly light.

Also, my house looked like a crime scene at the end of the day.  I'm going to need to get a Tide stick next time I make this.
I'm really enjoying the Nduja salami I made at the start of this year, but as it's so rich and fatty I've had some diminishing returns when enjoying it plain with bread and pickled red onions.  Don't get me wrong, it tastes great...but a little goes a long way.  Reading about other uses for Nduja salami, I found some cooks, chefs, and home charcuteriers use it to make a sauce for anything from pasta to grilled meat.  It makes sense; at 33% fat, 33% meat, and 33% various spices, Nduja is pretty much a highly concentrated paste of salami goodness.
Homemade Nduja Salami
Nduja hails from the coastal region of Calabria, so I thought a seafood dish would be perfect.  Originally I wanted to do clams and some sort of hearty green, but I came across a Spanish octopus that looked great.  Plus the meaty texture of octopus should be a good match for the intense flavors of the Nduja.
Lounging Octopus
In my previous reading, people would loosen up the dense Nduja paste with some stock or pasta water.  Sadly I was fresh out of octopus stock, so I added about 1/2 cup of Nduja to sauteed onions, carrots, and red pepper, then added a half cup of dry white vermouth.  Stirring the mixture about, the fat in the salami soon warmed and began coating the rest of the ingredients with a glossy red sheen.  Next I added a large can of rinsed chickpeas and the (previously boiled and chopped) octopus to warm through.
A Warming Pot of Chickpeas, Octopus, and Nduja
The resulting recipe tasted more Spanish than Italian, but still very tasty.  I really enjoyed the intense flavor of the Nduja, which was even more pronounced when hot, compared to eating the salami plain at room temperature. The final flavor of the dish also enjoyed a good boost of flavor from the cured pork in the Nduja, which enveloped the entire dish with a rich savor.