Friday, December 11, 2009

Part II: The creation - How it all falls into place

So, technically, part ii should be recipe testing. That's probably where I would have realized how to degrease the potstickers OR where i would have realized how quickly the things cool down. But, you know, this is an amateur speaking. For someone that's not working, I surprisingly don't have time to test. Or maybe I'm lazy and just refuse to spend  the money to do so, haha. I mean, who needs to test a recipe, anyway? I've made potstickers before, I've roasted veggies before, I've pureed stuff before.

So in order to stretch a buck, include a Brooklyn product and make a very tasty filling, I created the merguez mix. I was inspired mostly by a random charcuterie blog I found upon Googling, which was quite helpful. So, inspired by Charcuterista and my general knowledge of Moroccan flavors, here's my homemade merguez mix.

Homemade Merguez
1/2 lb merguez sausage - 2 links of tasty stuff
1 lb 'meatball mix' - 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, 1/3 veal
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoon harissa (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2-1 tablespoon spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ras el hanout (or to taste)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
2-4 turkish dried apricots, fine diced
2 medjool dates, fine diced
1/8 cup dry red wine, chilled

Remove the merguez meat from the sausage casing, and mix with the other meats. Add everything except for the wine and work together thoroughly. You want the fruits, garlic, spices and meats to combine together as best as possible. Add the wine  and finish combining. Let the mix marinate together for 12 hours minimal.
If you worry about erring on the side of too spicy, you can go light on the ras el hanout and harissa. Once the meat has marinated, I recommend taking a bite of the raw meat and cook it. At that point, you can up the spices and heat. I didn't take it light when originally seasoning, because I feel like more flavor is better. I ended up adding more harissa and the tomato paste, so tweak as need be. Don't be afraid!
This merguez is really damn tasty and can be used any way you could imagine!

Warning: this sauce is highly addictive. I recommend making it today, as it could really be used on, well, anything. really freakin tasty. This recipe is giant scale - feel free to scale down to use only like half of a squash.

Butternut Squash Saffron Sauce
1 giant butternut squash and 1/2  of a small squash, peeled and cubed
2 onions, chunked up
a handful of carrots (as much or as little as you want, really) (small cut)
olive oil, salt, pepper, stems of rosemary, thyme
1 cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream
pinch of saffron threads

Preheat oven to, um, 400?

Spread the vegetables on one or two cookie sheets and toss with the olive oil salt and pepper. Add the stems of herb and stick in oven. stir every 10-15, cook until fork tender.

Put your tiniest pot on the stovetop on as low as possible. Add 2 tbsp of heavy cream (basically just enough to cover the bottom of the pot). You don't really want to boil/cook the cream, that's not tasty, you just want it to warm up. once warm, take it off the eye and throw the saffron threads in. What I did was let it infuse for 15 minutes or so at room temp in a ramekin and then put it in the fridge.

Once the veggies are done, get out an immersion blender/food processor/blender. Depending on the size and power of your machine, put a little bit of liquid in (additional cream or high quality broth or water) and blend until as smooth as possible.

Push the blended veggies through a fine mesh strainer/sieve. This helps catch the herb stems, any onion skins and any chunks that didn't get pureed. (For me, the carrots weren't as tender as the squash so they had more trouble pureeing in my baby magic bullet.)

Depending on how much liquid you put in the puree, I  highly recommend throwing it back into a low temperature pot on the stove and cooking it lightly for five minutes.

Ok, so here's the thing - I whipped the saffron infused cream with the rest of the heavy cream until soft peaks, just to barely get it whipped up. but, once i added it to the hot squash, it collapsed. but i then used the hand mixer to whip the entire sauce lightly. A cup of cream with the puree makes it quite a loose yet thick sauce. So, really, whipping the cream may not be necessary, but I did it. It took just a minute. Whatever.

The saffron paired with the sweet yet savory butternut squash is so tasty. Seriously. it's tasty on a soft boiled egg. it's tasty as a cream replacement in mashed sweet potatoes. I bet it's tasty with the homemade butternut squash gnocchi sitting in my freezer.

Mo-Rockin Merguez Dumplings

Take 1/2 tsp merguez filling and place it in one wonton wrapper. wet the edges of the wonton with water and fold over to make a triangle. Keep both the wonton wrappers and the made dumplings covered with a damp cloth.

To cook: Heat a pan to medium, and I highly recommend using spray oil OR a pastry brush with veg oil. You do not want a lot of oil! Spray/brush bottom of pan, add a comfortable amount of dumplings to your pan (if it's a large pan, you can probably fit 6-8 easily). Cook for 1-2 minutes without touching, until brown. Turn down to low, add 1/3 cup water or broth and cover with a lid and let steam for 1-2 minutes.

To compose as an appetizer: place dumpling on a tray, squirt a dollop of butternut squash sauce on top of the dumpling, and top with a pinch of grated kohlrabi and apple, and a few toasted pinenuts.

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