Purées

My Nephew Ian comes up with so many good questions that turn into posts, I should have him on the payroll… This time around, he asks “Was thinking about making a cauliflower purée – how do I do that so that it actually tastes good?” The question sparked the realization that I get a lot of questions about purèes, so it’s time to expand on the topic.

Most humans start out eating purées as their first ‘solid’ food; that may explain both the attraction as well as the reticence many adults have with the concept. A purée is basically a sauce, somewhere between a paste and a very thick liquid in consistency. Point of fact, several variants are things we eat quite often, like apple sauce and mashed potatoes. Others are a bit rarer, like the cauliflower Ian asked about. The term is, of course, French – it means to purify or refine, and it’s quite old – My research found references to it all the way back to the 1200s.

Achieving a purée isn’t difficult; foods can be blended, processed, ground or sieved to achieve the desired result. That means that those of you who don’t have blenders or processors won’t be left out – something as simple as a sturdy single mesh strainer, a masher, or an old fashioned potato ricer will work just fine for many foods; a large fork will work in a pinch, too.

When it comes to constructing a tasty purée, a little forethought goes a long way. Potatoes lend themselves selflessly to the process, while that cauliflower requires a bit more effort. In both cases, (as with most foods you purée), cooking is necessary; this achieves several things, from making a food purée-able, to arriving at the desired consistency, and improving overall flavor. Steaming is always a great first cooking choice as it preserves nutrient content better than boiling does. A slow, gentle simmer is another good choice. At a minimum, blanching prior to puréeing takes the raw edge off, and maintains nice, bright colors as well.

Next consideration is water content. You might think that the average spud has more water onboard than cauliflower does, but it ain’t necessarily so – cauliflower is around 92% water, while the potatoes are more like 79%, (root veggies are among the lowest water content of any of the common veggies, one reason they store well.) What that tells us is that the cauliflower is going to require some reduction in water content to achieve a good purée, while the spuds will need some moisture added. Here’s a handy reference for future use.

Next consideration is the overall taste profile – what you’re after with a purée. Foods that have big flavor right out of the chute, like apples and berries, or sweet peppers and fresh peas, don’t need a whole lot of reinforcement to make a great purée – A little spice in the former (cinnamon, vanilla bean, ginger for instance), a little seasoning in the latter (sea salt, fresh ground pepper, a touch of citrus), and you’re good to go. Working with a light touch in either example allows the food being puréed to shine without being overpowered. Now that cauliflower, well… There are certainly folks who like this veggie plain, but it’s a safe bet more of us like some serious augmentation – my version treats it pretty much like mashed potatoes, adding stock, dairy, and fresh herbs, as you’ll see below. Personally, I treat almost all root veggies that way – They’re big on starch and sugar, but can all use some help in the taste arena.

A few final thoughts. A purée is a nice change of pace, and a great way to insert a touch of flavor into every bite of a main course dish. Whatever you purée, a nice, smooth consistency is what you’re after – gritty or lumpy isn’t likely to float anybody’s boat – This is where stock and dairy, (cream, sour cream, butter, and yoghurt are all nice), really shine as an adjunct ingredient. Keep that textural change in mind; make sure there are plenty of other touches, like a little crunch, so that you’re presenting a nice, balanced plate. Consider something a bit outside the box when you’re ready to try one – The herbed blueberry version below goes great with pork or chicken, as a for instance.

Here’s a couple to get you started.

Cauliflower Purée

1 Head Cauliflower

1/4 Cup Vegetable Stock

2 Tablespoons Butter

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil

1 teaspoon Lemon Thyme

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

 

Rinse cauliflower, pat dry, and cut into roughly 1/2″ chunks.

Place cauliflower in a steamer basket, within a large pot with about an inch of water therein.

Turn heat to medium high until water starts to boil.

Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and steam cauliflower until it mashes easily when tested with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer cauliflower to a blender or processor. Add stock, oil, butter, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until a nice, smooth consistency is achieved, about a minute.

Crush lemon thyme by hand and add; add a few twists of pepper. Pulse to incorporate, taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Serve promptly.

Herbed Blueberry Purée

2 Cups fresh Blueberries, (frozen will do fine)

2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar

1 Navel Orange

4-5 leaves Fresh Basil (Cinnamon, or Christmas Basil is spectacular)

Pinch Sea Salt

Rinse blueberries, then toss them into a blender or processor and pulse to a smooth consistency, about 30 seconds.

Cut orange in half; zest and juice half, return the rest to fridge.

Chiffonade basil.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine berries, honey, zest, juice of half orange, and salt.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat so blend is at a low simmer; cook for 10 to 15 minutes until blend has reduced and thickened notably.

Remove from heat, add basil and stir to incorporate. Allow basil to steep for 15 minutes as the mixture cools.

Pour the blend into a glass bowl through a single mesh strainer to remove solids and basil leaf.

You can serve just as it is, or allow to cool to room temperature.

Will store refrigerated for 3-4 days.

To serve, heat in a sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter and whisk to incorporate.

Serve hot.

 

 

Basque Piperade

Basque Piperade, or more properly, Piperrada, is an absolutely fabulous tomato-pepper sauce from the Basque country; the name derives from the Basque word for pepper. As with so many signature dishes, everyone has a recipe and they’re all different. In broadest terms, piperrada contains green and or red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers, tomatoes, and onion. Like that, it may be served as a side dish like a salsa or a base for stews, more like the basque version of mire poix. With the addition of a protein, (Eggs, ham or sausage), it becomes a hearty main course. The generally agreed point is that any version should be powered by red Espelette peppers, Piment d’Espelette in the French, and Ezpeletako biperra in the Basque.

Pimente d'Espelette

That legendary chile comes from its namesake town and a few surrounding communes in the Pyrenees. For about 12 years now, they’ve had AOC status, meaning that just like Champagne and Dijon mustard, they gotta be grown there to be called the real deal Espelette. Introduced into France by explorers hundreds of years ago, they’ve become a veritable cornerstone of Basque cuisine, and a key ingredient in piperade. An pepper festival is held annually in October, with colorful ristras of drying chiles be decking the towns. Espelettes score around a 4,000 on the Scoville scale, making them about like a Jalapeño in heat output.

Fresh and dried Espelettes are available online, but caveat emptor, there are also a lot of fakes. I get mine ground from World Spice; they’re genuine AOC chiles and the quality is consistently high, https://www.worldspice.com/spices/piment-despelette. Be prepared if you decide to dive in; an ounce will set you back about twelve bucks. That said, if you want to make the authentic dish, you need the real chile; they have a fruity, earthy heat that reflects their terroir; like legendary grapes, that certain je ne sais quoi comes from nowhere else. Here’s my version.

Piperade

5-7 fresh, ripe Tomatoes

1 large Sweet Onion, chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped

5-6 small, sweet Yellow and Orange Peppers, seeded and chopped

1-2 Hatch Chiles, (Hot or Mild as you prefer)seeded and finely chopped

2-3 cloves Garlic, crushed and finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground Piment d’Espelette

1/2 teaspoon local Honey

1/2 teaspoon Sal de Mer

1/4 teaspoon ground Pepper Blend

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, peppers, garlic, salt, paprika, black pepper, and sugar, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.

Add the tomatoes to the cooked vegetables and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened.

Transfer to a glass or stainless container and allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

Will last for a good week refrigerated in any air tight container.

Vas-y!

 

 

Health Impacts of Caffeine – Good, Bad, or Somewhere in Between?

At fifty five years of age, I don’t have many active vices left; coffee, really good coffee, is pretty much it. I roast my own, from single source, organic, fair trade green beans. I’ve got a very good grinder, and an excellent drip brewing setup. Like I said, it’s really good coffee; so good that you literally start to get a buzz just breathing in the steam from a fresh cup. Caffeine – That’s what it’s all about, and that begs the question – What are the health impacts of caffeine on humans – Is it good, bad, or a little of both?

Caffeine is arguably the most widely used central nervous system stimulant in the world, with coffee and tea drinking accounting for the lion’s share. In addition to coffee beans and tea leaves, caffeine is found in cocoa beans, kola nuts, mate, guarana, and some 50+ other plants around the world. Caffeine wielding plants use it as a pesticide, to discourage competing plants from getting too close, and as a reward enhancer for bee pollinated species.

The U. S. Food & Drug Administration doesn’t require manufacturers to disclose the amount of caffeine in food products, but the European Union does. It shows up in a myriad of products, quite a few in which you might not expect to find it in, non-cola sodas, energy drinks (including energy waters), painkillers, breath fresheners, and even sunflower seeds can all pack a significant caffeine buzz.

Pure caffeine was first isolated by German and French chemists in the early 19th century, and scientists have been messing with it ever since. An alkaloid with an aromatic core, it’s a white, odorless, water soluble powder.

Before looking at caffeine’s specific effects, it’s important to note how good it is at getting into our systems. It’s a relatively fast acting drug, reaching peak bloodstream absorption as quickly as 15 minutes. Its half life, (the time it takes to lose 50% of its effectiveness), is 3 to 7 hours in adults. The next consideration is bioavailability; this is a measure of absorption, expressed as a fraction – how much of a drug reaches the blood system. A drug injected intravenously has 100% bioavailability: The bioavailability of caffeine is 95%. Thirdly, there’s protein binding, a measure of efficiency determined by the percentage of a drug that becomes bound by proteins within our blood plasma. The lower the protein binding fraction, the more unbound drug, and the greater its ability to do what it does. Protein binding for caffeine is around 30%, meaning 70% of the caffeine that hits our blood stream is available to do its thing. The bottom line? Caffeine is exceptionally active within human beings.

Caffeine molecule

Caffeine is a stimulant, which it does by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain and inhibiting drowsiness. That same quality allows it to act on the autonomic nervous system, appreciably speeding up our reaction time. Additional known benefits include increased metabolism, more efficient energy use, as well as enhanced concentration and problem solving skills. There are ongoing studies to determine caffeine’s efficacy in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as providing some level of protection against Parkinson’s disease and certain cancers.

Health Effects of Caffeine go both ways

Yet all is not wine and roses. The list of known and potential negative side effects of caffeine is easily as long as that of its benefits. Insomnia, disrupted sleep patterns, significant withdrawal issues, problems during pregnancy including miscarriage, low birth weight, and withdrawal issues for newborns, (the half life of caffeine for neonates is 60 – 120 hours). Add high blood pressure, high blood sugar, decreased bone density, anxiety, and chronic headaches, and you’ve got more than enough reasons to be careful with this stuff.

Naturally, the next question is, how much is too much? Numerous factors have bearing on the answer, from gender and age, to health, body weight, and metabolism. The general consensus indicates that an intake level under 400 milligrams a day is safe; that’s something on the order of 3-4 cups of brewed coffee, 4 shots of espresso, and up to 10 cups of tea. And For the record, yes, caffeine can be fatal at very high doses; it would take something on the order of chugging 80 to 100 cups of coffee to get there.

Caffeine doses vary by product

The obvious and sensible answer is, of course, All things in moderation. The simple solution is to avoid all that ‘energy’ crap and stick to things that allow you a reasonable degree of control over your intake.

Painless Eggs Benedict at Home.

Few breakfast dishes are more celebrated than Eggs Benedict. This is as it should be, because when done well, there are few things more delightful. And yet they’re rarely made at home, due to the erroneous assumptions that they’re difficult and time consuming to make. As such, I’m going to share my version and method, and offer y’all homemade, painless Eggs Benedict

There are dueling Benedicts behind the origin of this dish; the only agreed points are that it is American, and that hollandaise is involved. Being a lifelong subscriber to the New Yorker, I am familiar with both stories, as they were both celebrated within the pages of that august magazine.

I was raised believing in the Lemuel Benedict version, in which a retired stockbroker with a hangover wobbled in to the legendary Waldorf one morning in the late nineteenth century and ordered more or less what is now known as Eggs Benedict – toast, bacon, poached eggs, and hollandaise. The Maître d’ on duty liked the idea and put it on the menu, subbing English muffin for toast and ham for the bacon, and naming it after the broker as a nod to his genius.

The competing Benedict was E. C., a New York banker, who’s version included a mixture of chopped, hard boiled eggs and minced ham topped with hollandaise.

Given the wide differences between Lemuel and Elias Cornelius’ versions, it’s fairly obvious who has won at least the popular vote, if not the naming rights. I’ll admit that E. C.’s is tasty, but as you can see, it’s not nearly as photogenic, and you also lose the delight of a somewhat runny yoke.

 

And speaking of naming, there are myriad variants, many of which have been titled as well, from florentine to mournay, and Chesapeake to Hebridean. As far as I’m concerned, any variant is still Benedict; mine is a hybrid, (and I’ll willingly pass on having it beknighted.)

Having talked to a lot of home cooks, it’s apparent that the greatest stumbling blocks encountered when making this legendary dish are as follows:

An overall sense of fussiness and time pressure when constructing the dish, and

A broad supposition that you must make the hollandaise last due to its volatility, which leads to overdone eggs and muffins, and myriad problems with getting consistent results making hollandaise, and

Inconsistent results when poaching eggs.

My method does away with all that, and produces glorious results, guaranteed. As you’ll see, we build the hollandaise first, with a decent understanding of how and why it works, which clears the deck for a relaxed and successful result. And secondly, we’ll use a skillet instead of a sauce pan to poach, which affords you much better, very consistent results. Doing so means you can clearly see how your eggs are cooking, and better management of the whites.

First, a bit about the heartbeat of the dish, hollandaise. This is an emulsion, which means one of two things in cooking, either fat dispersed into water, or water dispersed into fat. Hollandaise is the former, and that’s important to understand when considering that it’s made with egg yolks only. Both yolk and whites are protein rich, and it’s the unraveling and meshing of such proteins that allows us to integrate a bunch of fat therein and form a nice, rich sauce. In that sense, yolks have a distinct disadvantage vis a vis whites – Yolks have almost no water when compared to whites, and their proteins are wound that much tighter. The best illustration of this is trying to whip either in order to increase their volume. Egg whites whip readily and expand willingly, while on the other hand, no amount of whipping will appreciably increase the volume of yolks. Those proteins in egg yolks are too dense to expand when they stand alone; water is what they need to be able to do that – add a tablespoon of water to the yolk of a large egg and you’ll get about the same water balance as one egg white has. Yet even doing that, the expansion you achieve will be very short lived. Those proteins are so tightly packed that, even though you’ve introduced air and made them expand, they are still not ready to truly relax and merge.

In light of this chemical fact, you might note that it’s surprising how many hollandaise recipes include no water, and you’d be right – I don’t get that, either.

Acids, like lemon juice or vinegar, will also relax yolk proteins, but the real protagonist here is gentle heat, with an emphasis on gentle – Heat this mixture too much and you get scrambled eggs, as many cooks are all too familiar with; in fact, overcooked hollandaise is easily the Number One Fail for home cooks. You’ll see, below, that I use far less heat than most recipes, and that none if it is direct. This solves the overcooking and the fussiness, to boot. Fact is, the indirect, (mostly steam), heat in the double boiler, coupled with the latent heat within the melted butter is more than sufficient to get the job done.

So, what we do is combine an acid, (lemon juice), with heat; that lets us achieve the desired end, and takes the pressure of screwing up off the cook as well. Here’s how you do it.

 

Painless Hollandaise

4 large, fresh Egg Yolks

1/2 Cup fresh Butter

1 Tablespoon Cold Water

2 teaspoons fresh Lemon Juice

2-3 shakes Tabasco Sauce

 

Separate eggs. Place whites in an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze for future projects.

Put about 2″ of water in a sauce pan sized such that a mixing bowl or double boiler will fit within. You want the bottom of the bowl you’ll work in to be above the water by a good 2″. Not doing this right is a primary cause of failed hollandaise – Too much heat, and/or heating too fast.

Turn heat to medium low.

In a separate sauce pan, melt butter over medium low heat.

When the water starts to simmer, turn off the heat.

In a small mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, water, and lemon juice.

Whisk briskly by hand to combine, until blend thickens and the volume has increased notably, about 2 minutes.

Place bowl over the hot water pan.

Gently but steadily whisk the egg yolk mixture to heat it through, about 1 – 2 minutes.

Begin slowly adding butter in a thin stream; add a few seconds worth, whisking gently but constantly, until the yolk mixture has incorporated the butter, then add a little more, and keep doing so until all the butter is absorbed.

The sauce will thicken somewhat, but possibly not as much as you like it to end up, but don’t sweat that point; as the sauce sits while you prep the rest of the dish, it’ll thicken a bit more.

Whisk in the Tabasco, then set the whole double boiler rig on the back of your oven, and cover with a clean towel.

 

Eggs Benedict – Serves 2

4 large, fresh Eggs

2-4 slices thick cut Ham, (Cooked)

4 slices thick cut Sourdough Bread

Tablespoon of White Vinegar

Pinch of fresh Dill

 

Preheat oven to Warm.

Cut sourdough into roughly 4″rounds, and do the same with the ham.

Toast sourdough lightly, then place ham onto plates in the oven to heat through.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add about 2″ of hot water, and the vinegar.

When the water starts to simmer, roll the heat back to medium low.

Gently crack an egg and, with the shell just above the water, slowly release it into the pan. The vinegar will help the whites to solidify quickly, keeping your eggs together. Repeat with the other three eggs.

Poach eggs for about 3 minutes, until all the whites are nicely set and the yolks are still semi-liquid.

Perfect poached eggs need a skillet, not a pan

Remove plates, toast, and ham and set up two of each on warm plates.

Use a slotted spoon to gently corral eggs and set them carefully on the ham and toast stacks.

Uncover hollandaise and whisk to loosen it up a bit. If it’s a bit too thin, a little burst of heat and whisking will take care of that in less than a minute. If perchance it’s thickened too much, a teaspoon to two of milk whisked in will bring everything back to status quo.

Spoon generously over eggs and garnish with a little fresh dill.

Painless, perfect homemade eggs Benedict
I don’t really have to say ‘enjoy,’ do I?

 

Lamb Merguez & House Made Harissa – North African Specialties

My friend David Berkowitz is a true renaissance guy; on any given day, he might be mixing sound at Wolf Trap, or building guitars of truly sublime beauty and power; often enough, he follows that up with some very inspired cooking. I’ve seen great dishes with influences from French, through Middle Eastern and North African come from his talented hands. The former launched this question the other day.

“Do you have a good recipe for lamb merguez? The ones I’ve found around here are mostly beef and then end up having kind of a gritty texture. Not sure why that is.”

As always, big thanks for asking; first, let’s look at that grainy issue. Merguez is highly spiced, and on top of that, if those makers close to Dave are using mostly beef, I can see a few potential issues. My first suspect would be not processing at cold enough temperatures – With as much dry spice as merguez boasts, you need to make sure that everything is really cold – Meat semi-frozen, spices fully chilled, and all vessels frozen throughout production. If those steps aren’t taken, then I’d think the chance of ingredients separating is quite high, and that’s the number one reason sausage will get grainy. Secondly, beef is quite marbled compared to lamb, or at least the most common sausage making cuts are, so potentially one could have a meat/fat ratio issue there. And finally, for a relatively heavily spiced sausage like this, you pretty much gotta add a bit of liquid after grinding and work that into the mix before stuffing.

Merguez is a French derivation of the Berber word for sausage, mirqaz. This is a fresh sausage, bright red before cooking, made from mutton or lamb, and heavily laced with North African spices – chiles, garlic, fennel, and cumin are dominant notes. The characteristic red color comes from paprika and harissa, a Tunisian chile paste. While some recipes just add chile flake or powder, as far as I’m concerned it’s not the real deal unless it includes harissa, and that too should be home made. We make ours with roasted red Hatch and Serrano chiles, and it’s got all the heat you need – Knowing David as I do, I’ll bet his version will have Habaneros in it, if not ghost chiles – He’s that kinda chile head…

Traditionally, Merguez is stuffed in lamb casing, and you can get those online from Butcher & Packer, Amazon, etc, but frankly, there’s nothing wrong with using beef or even synthetic if that’s what you like. Served with a nice couscous and a cucumber salad with yoghurt sauce, you’ve got a truly fabulous meal.

First off, here’s the harissa; refrigerated, it’ll last a couple weeks in an airtight container. It’s great with all kinds of meats, veggies, and even eggs.

Harissa - Tunisian Chile Paste

Urb’s Harissa

5 red Hatch New Mexican Chiles

5-7 fresh Serrano Chiles

3 cloves Garlic

2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil

1 teaspoon Coriander

1 teaspoon Caraway Seed

1/2 teaspoon Cumin

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

 

Set oven to broil and a rack on the highest setting.

Place whole chiles on a dry sheet pan and roast, turning steadily, until skins are blackened uniformly.

Pull chiles from oven and set aside to cool.

Combine coriander, caraway, and cumin in a spice grinder and pulse until uniformly blended and powdered.

Remove skins and stems from cooled chiles. If you’re a heat weenie, use gloves when processing them, and you might want to remove some or all of the seeds, (but you should feel shame for doing that, because this stuff is meant to pack a punch.)

Smash garlic, peel, and remove nibs from both ends.

Load all ingredients but the salt in a blender or processor and pulse to a uniform paste.

Add half the salt, pulse again and taste; adjust salt as needed.

Store refrigerated, in an airtight, glass container.

 

And here’s the sausage. If you have access to local grass fed lamb, that’s what you want; the benefits of that far outweigh commercially packed stuff. Whatever you get, make sure it’s as fresh as can be. Lamb gets a bad rep for being funky, but to be honest, that has far more to do with how the animal is raised and fed than it does the meat itself. Lamb fat is more piquant than beef, but the beauty of lamb is that the fat isn’t marbled into the meat nearly as much, so when you trim, you can remove exactly as much of the fat as you like, and end up with beautiful, lean meat to work with. Lamb fat is traditional for Merguez; you can add some pork or beef as well, if you like. I use 50% – 50% lamb and pork fat; that balance makes a sausage that many folks really enjoy.

NOTE: I use a Kitchenaid grinder and stuffer attachment, so I’ve got a stand mixer basically set up when I build this sausage. If you have a dedicated grinder, prep your stand mixer with a paddle blade attached before you start.

 

Real Deal Merguez Sausage, (Makes 4 pounds of pre-cooked sausage)

3 Pounds Lamb Shoulder

1 Pound Lamb, Pork, or Beef Fat

1/2 Cup Harissa

1/4 – 1/2 Cup Ice Water

6 cloves Garlic (pick uniformed sized ones)

2 Tablespoons hot, sweet Paprika

2 Tablespoons Sea Salt

2 teaspoons Fennel Seed

2 teaspoons Cumin

2 teaspoons Coriander

1-2 teaspoons Sumac

Natural Casings, 28mm to 32mm

NOTE: Sumac has a tart, citrusy flavor that is potent and complex. Try a dab on your fingertip and decide how much you like it, then add either 1 or 2 teaspoons.

 

Have all spices and Harissa refrigerated and thoroughly chilled.

Meat needs to be semi-frozen prior to production; I usually trim and size it, then lay it on a small sheet pan and put that in the freezer. All bowls need to be frozen as well.

Trim all gristle and connective tissue from lamb and fat.

Trim meat to size so that it’ll feed smoothly through your grinder.

Set grinder up with a coarse plate for your first run.

Casings should be thoroughly rinsed, inside and out, then soaked in warm water for 30 minutes prior to stuffing.

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, add fennel, cumin, and coriander; toast spices, (staying right with it, ’cause they can burn really quickly), mixing with a fork for 1 – 2 minutes until their fragrance tells you they’re done. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.

Smash, peel, trim ends from garlic, then mince and set aside.

Transfer cooled spices to a grinder and process to a uniform powder.

Transfer ground spice to a small mixing bowl, add sumac, paprika, and sea salt, blend thoroughly, and set aside.

Set one of your chilled bowls up inside a slightly larger bowl with plenty of ice in it – snug your receiving bowl down into the larger so it’s well iced.

Run fat and meat through your grinder.

Add spice blend, harissa, and garlic to ground meat and combine thoroughly by hand. Return grind to freezer.

Set your grinder up for a second run with a fine plate, with the same iced set up for your receiving bowl.

Set a small sauté pan over medium high heat.

Transfer bowl with sausage grind to your stand mixer with a paddle blade attached. Add half the ice cold water and process at fairly low speed, (2 or 3), until you’ve fully incorporated the water, about 1 minute. Sausage should be moist and slightly sticky; if it’s not quite right, continue mixing and add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get there.

Hand form a small patty of the sausage, (about 3″ around and 1/4″ thick), and return the rest to the fridge. Cook the patty through, 1 – 2 minutes per side. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. If you add more seasoning, blend with the paddle on the mixer. You can add another teaspoon or so of water, if needed.

Set up your grinder for stuffing; fill about 3/4 full and twist into 6″ links. Coil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to cooking.

Merguez - Spicy North African Sausage
Merguez stands out with its bright red color

Merguez should be cooked over wood or charcoal. Once you’ve got nice, glowing coals and a preheated, brushed, and lightly oiled grate, grill to an internal temperature of 155° F. Allow a 5 minute rest prior to serving.

Merguez - Spicy a North African Sausage

 

 

 

Branching Out

beginning today, I’ll be writing features for Interesting Engineering. I’ll post one every three days or so, covering engineering, science, and technology. My slant, as it is here, is the history of things, and interpreting complex stuff in a way that makes sense for the rest of us. If such things interest you, please join me.

My first post is about Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s vision of future transit. Check it out here.