Friday, August 7, 2009

Beer + Sausage = Independence

by Erin and Xani

For the Fourth of July this year, Xani and I wanted to have a party. While throwing around ideas one weekend at Blackacre, our parents suggested that we recreate one of their fabulous parties from when they were first married (apparently throwing great parties is genetic): Sausage and Beer party. We loved the idea immediately and started a'planning.

We decided that it'd be fun to try to make our own sausages for the party, so over the Father's Day weekend, we spent an afternoon elbow-deep in pork. Xani brought her Charcuterie book by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn and we tried to follow its directions but we hit a few snags along the way and had to go off-script at some points.

Father-daughter sausage-making on Father's Day!

We decided to make three kinds of sausage: sweet Italian, hot Italian, and chorizo. Seasoning the meat was easy, it was all the steps afterwards that proved challenging. We used a pork shoulder (per the recipe) and Dad bought a brand new gigantic meat grinder. However, the meat had a lot of extra "stuff" other than pure meat and it got all caught up in the grinder. So, we tried chopping the meat up into smaller pieces by hand and then grinding it. Then we tried using the food processor to chop the meat before grinding it. Then we just used the food processor alone. In the end, the best texture came from the second method (food processor and then run it through the grinder).

Seasoned up and ready to go into the grinder

Dad chops the meat after we realized the grinder alone wouldn't cut it (ha, pardon the pun)

Before putting the meat into the sausage maker, we cooked little bits of each kind of meat to make sure the seasoning was right. They all tasted awesome, so we were glad for that at least. Then it was time to make the sausages. We got natural pork casings from a butcher in Federal Hill at the Cross Street Market (thanks Henry!) and soaked them for a few hours to get all the salt off of them (that's how they are preserved). Then we loaded the meat into the grinder and started making sausages! It was pretty easy at that point (HA - easy after hours of seasoning, chopping, and grinding meat). We made both links and large coils of sausage and froze them in preparation for the party a few weeks later.

Flash forward to a few days before July 4: we went to the farmer's market to buy lots of veggies and fruits for the party, and also to buy some back-up sausages from our favorite pork guy in case ours turned out to be terrible. We purchased some brats from him, in addition to some sage sausage. So, in the end, we had 5 flavors of sausage to serve. We were happy that almost everything we served at the party was local/organic - yay us!

We decided to serve the sausages in mini-form (approximately 2-3 inches) with mini-rolls, so people could try more than one flavor without having to commit (?) to eating an entire full-size sausage. To serve with the sausages, we made 3 delicious condiments from this Food & Wine article. We made Curried Apricot and Tomato Ketchup, Quick Mustard Picalilly, and Smoky Pimento Relish.

5 kinds of sausages with the accompanying chart


In addition to the sausages, we served a tomato, feta, and basil salad (we made up the recipe), coleslaw with cayenne and toasted caraway seeds, and horseradish potato salad.

Lovely tomatoes

Tomato, feta, & basil salad (basil from Xani's garden!)

Horseradish potato salad

Coleslaw with Cayenne and Caraway Seeds

Side dishes and accompanying signs

We also made Old Bay popcorn for people to nosh on and we cut up a watermelon (which we served outside so people could spit their seeds on the ground -- or at each other).

For dessert, we decided to make ice cream sandwiches!! We were inspired, as always, by Ina Garten and we made her Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies which she used for ice cream sandwiches. We made a few changes, however: first, neither of us is a big white chocolate fan, so we used semi-sweet chocolate chips instead; also, we wanted the cookies to be more chewy than crispy so they wouldn't fall apart when in ice cream sandwich-form (and they wouldn't stay so solid such that they would force the ice cream to escape out the sides), so we referred to Xani's favorite book, Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, who instructed us to add more butter if you want a chewier cookie. Right, that's just what an Ina Garten recipe needs, more butter. But, we followed Ruhlman's ratio and sure enough, they came out just chewy enough.

Mmmm cookies

All paired up and ready to be made into sandwiches!

Once the cookies had baked and cooled, it was time to assemble the ice cream sandwiches. Now, this is where we differ in our cooking techniques. Erin usually does not mind getting messy in the kitchen, while Xani would prefer to keep a clean work space. Making ice cream sandwiches was, well....Xani wasn't too happy, let's put it that way. We had an assembly line where Xani would put the ice cream between two cookies, and then Erin would roll the sandwiches in red and blue sprinkles and place them in the freezer. This was a melty, sticky, crushed-sprinkles-all-over-the-floor endeavor, but we made it through. And they looked (and tasted) great!

Ice cream sandwich assembly line; note that the ice cream is on a scale so we could put the same amount in each one (nerds!)

Miraculously, for the first time in all of our years of party-throwing, we were done with everything before our friends arrived! It was great. We asked all of our friends to bring their favorite beer, and we planned to give out prizes for different categories of beer, for example: beer from furthest away, beer from closest, strongest beer, "classiest" beer (ahem, Miller High Life), most unique flavor, highest alcohol content, etc. Our friends came through and we had a grand old time and lots of delicious beers!

Food, as far as the eye could see

For contest winners, we gave out foodie tattoos, which were BAD ASS! We had a great time giving them out and I kept mine on for as long as I could. Here are some foodie tattoo pics:

After lots of eating, talking, and drinking, it was time to head up to Xani's rooftop deck, where we could watch the fireworks! We brought the ice cream sandwiches (and, let's be honest, more beer) up to the roof and watched the show on a practically perfect night for it. We may or may not have chanted "USA! USA!" at some point.

It was a great party and the food was awesome (if we do say so ourselves)! The chorizo turned out the best as far as our homemade sausages went - it had the best taste and texture. The condiments were also great - the picalilly was our favorite. It had sauerkraut, mustard, and beer in it - what could be bad? The cole slaw was really tasty, and while the potato salad was good, the horseradish we had was kind of weak so it didn't have that "punch you in the sinuses" effect we were hoping for. The tomato and feta salad was absolutely delicious and fresh and was a big hit. Everyone seemed to really like the ice cream sandwiches too.

Thanks to our guests for coming and bringing delicious beer and snacks (esp. Joy who made a delicious and beautiful 4th of July dessert!), and thanks to Mom and Dad for helping us make sausages and make a huge mess in Kitchen Stadium!

Here are a few more pics from the party:

Joy's dessert - it's nice to be friends with a pastry chef ;)

Happy sausage making and eating,

EP & X

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heart Attack on a Plate

by Erin

We're baaaaaack! I am done with the bar(!!) and now am hoping to blog more regularly. I know our fans are dying without our witty food commentary and trademark crappy photos, so here's your first dose after a long stint without it. I know I said I'd be blogging about our awesome 4th of July party last month, but I just HAD to tell you guys about the meal we had tonight.

Xani and I met up for dinner tonight and went to Mother's Federal Hill Grille, a local restaurant in our 'hood. We chose Mother's because we had heard about a certain burger called "Heart Attack on a Plate." I discovered this burger a few weeks ago and told Xani we HAD to go have it so it could be featured on one of our favorite food blogs: This is Why You're Fat. Turns out we're not the only ones who found this burger intriguing: the Today Show featured it recently! (See video of the chef making it with Matt Lauer on the Mother's home page.)

So let's get to the deets: the menu describes this burger as an "8 oz. beer battered burger stuffed with cheddar cheese, then deep fried. Served with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and chipotle mayonnaise." Sign me up, and get me a defibrilator while you're at it.

The verdict? It was really good! It was crispy and crunchy, the burger was cooked to medium and had lots of gooey melted cheese in the middle. The whole thing was dripping hot burger grease on your hand which made you want to put the burger down but you couldn't because if you set it down, the whole thing would fall apart. It was a battle but we made it through.

By the way, we split this burger and we were both stuffed by the end of it. It was a great, ridiculous dish and we highly recommend it.

More blogging, comin' right up!

Happy crazy burger eating -

ps. This crazy man ate TWO of these burgers and captured the whole thing on YouTube. He's no Adam Richman, adorable host of Travel Channel's "Man v. Food" and hopefully my future husband, but I give him props for keeping it down.

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