Cindy, my mother-in-law, surprised me with a beautiful tray of sea urchin roe!  It was totally unexpected, but very much appreciated.  I don't think I've had sea urchin for at least four or five years.  Presented with a tray of fresh sea urchin roe, it seemed like the best way to savor them was plain, straight from the tray.
Called uni in Japan, we ate them as you would slices of sashimi.  The uni was mild but salty and savory, very much the opposite of a sweet scallop.  Texturally, it was very peculiar to place food on your tongue that has the same pebbly texture as your own tongue.  It kind of reminded me of placing a smaller, colder version of my own tongue on top of my live tongue.  Well...maybe I should have left that sentence out...
Sea Urchin Roe
After we each tried a slice or two, I wanted to just slightly heat the remaining uni to see how it reacted under heat.  Years ago I had a "cassoulet" of sea urchin and lobster at Clio in Boston.  It was interesting to have the sea urchin served hot, so I wanted to see how the texture/flavor would change.  I imagine sea urchin roe does not need a lot of cooking, so I just made a butter sauce with Korean chile paste and poured the boiling butter over the sea urchin.  After sitting for a few minutes in the hot butter, the roe had firmed up slightly but still had a bold, briny flavor.


I do not know why I'm so captivated by the tiny black silkie chicken.  The obvious reason is that it's delicious, but I love all the quirks of the black silkie.  Their extra toes make their feet look like the claws of a gargoyle, but they have the temperament of a nursery maid, even adopting and sitting on orphaned eggs (even giant duck eggs!)  Their skin is the color of wet stone, but their bones are jet black, due to a hyperpigmentation gene.  As soon as you cook the skin, it turns from grey to a deep, glossy, obsidian black.
Despite all the black-on-black-on-black, silkies are colorfast and won't produce a black broth, using either water or fat to try to leach the inky pigment from their bones.  Carla loves silkie soup, but I've been mentally fiddling with the idea of a roasted silkie.  The issue is that silkies are so much bones and skin - there's not too much meat available for roasting.  Then I came across an old episode of Top Chef with Susur Lee stripping all the meat from a silkie and wrapping it in the skin.
Giving this a shot, I boned out the silkie and cut the skin so that the legs and wings had boneless pockets of skin for stuffing, plus large patches of skin from the thigh and breast for wrapping everything up securely.
I took all the meat from the breasts, thighs, wings, and legs and chopped it finely together using several passes with a heavy knife.  Once it had taken on a smooth texture, I seasoned it lightly with salt, garlic, thyme and a bit of red pepper.  Stuffing the forcemeat back into the hollowed out skin of the wings and legs, I wrapped the excess skin tightly around the silkie's limbs and let them set in the fridge overnight.
Assembling the dish was very simple:  I just sauteed the legs and wings in a hot pan to crisp the skin, then popped them in the oven to finish cooking through.  To add some brightness to the dish, I garnished the dish with Napa cabbage kimchi, scallion oil, and Korean chili flakes.

I really enjoyed the finished product of the dish, and treating the silkie like a steakhouse entree, where the protein is simply displayed on the plate with a few garnishes and not crowed with multiple sides.  Carla found the double wrapping of skin to be too much skin for her tastes, so I'll probably try a new variant on silkie soup after this.


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This is a jar of kimchi that I started at the beginning of the year.  Youngjoo mentioned that in winter that people would add chestnuts (and sometimes raw oysters) to their kimchi, which sounded wild to me at the time.

Cabbage and Chestnuts
I was really surprised by all the chestnuts stalls on the streets of Seoul in winter.  What especially stood out to me was the custom of eating a raw chestnut from a vendor before buying a whole bag of their roasted chestnuts.  I'd never even considered eating a chestnut raw before.  Watching this, it reminded me of a shopper tasting a grape at the grocers, seeking out the sweetest bunch before settling on a bag to take home.

This recipe followed my basic recipe for kimchi: Napa cabbage cut into 1/8th sections, lots of scallions cut into 3" lengths, and a large Daikon radish peeled and cut into batons.

The sauce is salt, fish sauce, gochugaru chile flakes, garlic, and ginger.   I wasn't sure what kind of ratio of chestnuts I should add, so I just mixed in a bunch of cooked and peeled chestnuts until it seemed likely that you'd get a few chestnuts each time you removed a section of cabbage.

After about six weeks, the chestnuts have really absorbed the spicy, heady flavors of the fermenting kimchi.  The chestnuts still have some of their original flavor and sweetness, but mostly they just add a unique, meaty texture to the soft squoosh of the cabbage tips and the crunch of the daikon and cabbage hearts.  The chestnuts are beginning to get a bit fragile and crumbly as time goes on,which is something else I didn't expect.

Getting a new kitchen toy always opens up new and exciting doors to me, but it's funny that I still always start with the old classics.  When I got my cast iron skillet I had to make pancakes and fried eggs.  The first thing in my smoker wasn't salami or a pig head, but chicken and ribs.
A Boned-out Half Chicken
The PolyScience Immersion Circulator is the same thing.  There are some wild possibilities out there, but the first thing I cooked in it was the dead simple 62 C eggs.  This post is about another dish that I've seen a lot, but just had to try for myself.  It's a chicken roulade:  a chicken boned out and rolled up.  Classically, the dish might be just the breast completely wrapped in the skin (or bacon) in a roll shape.
Chicken Roulade: Breast Wrapped in Thigh Wrapped in Skin
Transglutaminase
But with a immersion circulator, you can perfectly cook through both the dark meat and the white meat at the same time.  In the Momofuku cookbook chef David Chang explains being inspired by friend and fellow chef Wiley Dufresne and his recipe for a "chicken ball."  Wiley would bone out a chicken, wrap the white breast meat with the dark thigh meat, then wrap everything in the skin.  Cooked through in a water bath to 160F, the chicken ball would be deep fried to quickly crisp the skin.  The result was a trifecta of perfect chicken cookery: crisp skin, tender dark meat, juicy white meat.

To hold the meat together the dark and white meat were bonded with transglutaminase, sometimes sold under the name "moo glue."  Transglutaminase is an enzyme that bonds proteins together and can be harvested from animal blood.  So by sprinkling a little bit of transglutaminase on the surface of the white and dark meat, you can bind them together into a single piece, sealing them into a single piece of meat that won't fall apart when cut with a knife.

Sealed with Herbs
For my own recipe I kept the more natural shape of a chicken breast rather than forming it into a ball.  The breast meat was in the center, surrounded by thigh meat, and wrapped up snugly in skin.  Between these layers of white meat, dark meat, and skin I sprinkled salt, pepper, thyme, red pepper, and transglutaminase.  Vacuum sealed with a bay leaf, I put them in the fridge overnight to help the meat seal up and infuse with the herbs.

I cooked these in a 160 F water bath for an hour until they hit an internal temperature of 160 F.  Carefully unrolling the first breast, I was surprised how tightly the meat was bound.  It really had become a solid, uniform piece of chicken.

Browned in a pan the skin did crisp up, but I see why Wiley deep fries these.  The sides and wing were very hard to brown, even spooning hot butter and oil over the skin as the rest of the chicken was seared.  Submerging the chicken in a deep fryer would allow all of the skin to be crisped up.
I enjoyed this dish, which did get a nice herbal flavor permeating all of the meat.  It's a unique technique with great presentation, but a lot of work for chicken-on-chicken.  It's funny - the dish was perfectly cooked, but for the work involved I wonder if it would be better to make it a bit fancier, perhaps by making a chicken mousse to fill the skin.  Otherwise you could just cook a half-chicken on the bone in a water bath and not fuss with boning them out.

I might try this again and stick with the "chicken ball" to see how that might be a better use of the technique.


Of all the sausages I've made, this is the recipe I have practiced the most.  It's also my most popular sausage, within both my family and my friends.  Last summer I was commissioned to make twelve pounds of it to serve at a wedding for one of Carla's colleagues, which was a big honor.  It's a simple recipe, but the repetition of making it over and over has helped to refine the finished product.
Moosbacher Cheese
I first had this sausage at Pigstock, where it was made by Michael Clampffer from Mosefund Farm.  I didn't get his recipe, but the flavors stuck with me.  Plus, I had never seen anything like it: a sausage studded with 1/2" cubes of cheese that oozed out when you cut them.
Cubing up 3lbs of cheese takes some time
I've tried lots of different cheeses in this recipe over the years, from Gruyere (seemed to overpower the flavor of the meat) to domestic Munster (too bland) to blending a few cheeses together.  Ultimately I find some type of Emmental-style cheese is best.  It's durable enough to withstand the sausage press, but melts smoothly when the sausages are heated.  Lastly, this type of cheese is full-flavored without dominating the taste of the pork.  My current favorite is an Austrian cheese called Moosbacher.  Made in the Emmental-style, Moosbacher is wrapped in a damp linen cloth during aging to help develop a slightly funky washed rind.  Plus, it's more affordable than true Swiss Emmental.
Pre-Smoking
The sausage meat is finely ground pork shoulder.  Usually 2-3 passes through the grinder should do it, which will give you a smooth, uniform forcemeat, like in a kielbasa.

The seasoning is very simple:  just salt, sodium nitrite, white pepper, and mustard powder.  I think the white pepper and mustard powder gives the sausage a bit of bite to balance the richness of the cheese and pork.  Then the cubes of cheese are mixed through the forcemeat and packed into casings.

Next the sausages are cold smoked for a few hours to build in another level of flavor.  I suppose you could skip the smoking process, but for me it really brings the sausages to another level.  My dad describes the flavor of these sausages as "comfort food."  And on a cold day nothing could beat the flavors of smoked pork and warm gooey cheese.

Along with making these sausages over and over, I've worked hard to find out the best way to cook them.  In a hot skillet the cheese will boil and burst out, ruining the effort of stuffing the cheese inside.  For a while I would slowly bake them, allowing the meat to gently come up to temperature and sealing in more of the cheese.  Lastly, I found that poaching the sausages was the best, as it contained all of the cheese still cooked the pork through.
Pork Sausage Studded with Cheese Cubes
 Now I use my immersion circulator to cook them, but previously I would use a large pot of below-simmering water to cook them.  So while this isn't a very "fancy" recipe, I think people love it because the sausage is so inherently satisfying and savory.  The recipe does have a lot of steps, but the finished product is a perfect mixture of textures, rich flavors, and a lingering smoky aroma.