Posts Tagged ‘fennel’

From herbs in the last episode, the Good Eats trail takes us to spices in episode 98. So, what is the difference between a spice and an herb? An herb is a leaf, while a spice is a different part of a plant. If you want to keep your spices fresh longer, it is ideal to purchase spices in their whole forms, grinding them in a spice-only coffee grinder just prior to use. I remember that my dad began grinding his spices after watching this episode when it aired in 2004. Read on for Alton’s spice-friendly recipes.

Dried Pear and Fig Compote

A fruit compote is the first thing Alton made in this episode.

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Ingredients for fruit compote: white wine, dried figs, dried pears, vanilla bean, lemon zest, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, Kosher salt, lemon juice, and honey.

To make his compote, place 4 ounces dried figs, 4 ounces dried pears, 2 T honey (Alton used orange blossom), 1/2 a vanilla bean, 1 C apple cider, 1 C white wine, a 1-inch strip of lemon zest, 1 T lemon juice, 6 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod, and 1/2 t Kosher salt in a medium saucepan.

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All of the compote ingredients placed in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, decrease the heat to low, and continue to simmer the compote for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I found that it took the full 1 1/2 hours of simmering for my compote to thicken as Alton’s had.

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The compote, brought to a simmer and left for 1 1/2 hours.

After simmering, remove the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and lemon zest; good luck finding the cloves – we didn’t find some of them until we ate the compote!

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The compote after simmering.

Serve the compote warm over ice cream or you can refrigerate it for later use. We ate the compote over vanilla ice cream and it was very flavorful and spicy.IMG_6930

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Compote over ice cream.

All of the spices seemed to be well-balanced, though clove was perhaps the most dominant spice. The compote was pretty sticky in texture and had little pops of crunch from the dried fig seeds, which were quite prevalent. Due to the rich color of the compote, and its spices, the compote seems to me like a good dish to make in the fall. This would also be great over a pork tenderloin. This is a recipe that truly shows how spices can contribute to a sweet dish.

Vegetable Curry

For a weeknight vegetarian dinner, consider giving Alton’s vegetable curry a try.

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Spices for Alton’s vegetable curry: coriander, onion powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin seed, mustard seed, and fennel seed.

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Spices, divided for their addition in the recipe. Yellow bowl has cumin seed, fennel seed, and mustard seed. Red bowl has coriander, onion powder, cinnamon, and turmeric. Green bowl has Kosher salt, sugar, and pepper.

The recipe begins with poking holes in a frozen bag of mixed vegetables. Microwave the veggies on high for 2-3 minutes, or until thawed.

Next, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, adding 2 T vegetable oil to coat the pan. To the oil, add 1 t cumin seed, 1/2 t mustard seed, and 1/2 t fennel seed. If you have a splatter guard, Alton recommends that you use it now.

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Cumin seed, mustard seed, and fennel seed added to hot oil in skillet.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a bowl 2/3 C plain yogurt and 1 t cornstarch, setting the bowl aside.

When the mustard seeds begin to pop in your skillet, add 1/2 t freshly ground coriander, 1/2 t onion powder, 1/8 t ground cinnamon, and 1 t ground turmeric.

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Coriander, onion powder, cinnamon, and turmeric added to skillet once mustard seeds began to pop.

It is also time now to add two crushed cloves of garlic and three dried red chilies with their stems and seeds removed.

Cook this mixture until the garlic begins to turn golden, but watch it very carefully as the spices could easily burn. When the garlic begins to brown, add the thawed bag of vegetables to the pan, along with 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t sugar, and black pepper to taste.

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Thawed frozen veggies, stirred in, along with Kosher salt, sugar, and pepper.

Stir the vegetables until they are heated through and coated with the spice mixture. Finally, quickly stir the vegetables into the bowl of yogurt.

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Spiced vegetables added to yogurt.

In the episode, Alton appeared to serve his vegetable curry as a side dish, but I opted to serve his curry over rice for a main course.

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Vegetable curry served over rice.

We thought this curry was pretty impressive, though the chilies really didn’t make it very hot. I would prefer to have more heat in my curry, but that is just personal preference. Otherwise, this curry had a nice combination of spices and came together in a matter of minutes. To get some protein, you could always add some tofu or meat. I would not say this recipe wowed me, but it is good for what it is – an easy weeknight vegetable dinner. And, it does have lots of spice flavor.

Broiled Salmon with AB’s Spice Pomade

Alton’s third spice recipe features salmon. It begins by placing an oven rack in the top third of the oven and preheating the broiler. Brush a sheet pan with canola oil, placing a skinless three-pound side of salmon on the pan; I opted for a smaller piece, or really two pieces, of salmon since there were only two of us eating.

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My salmon.

Sprinkle the fish all over with 1 to 1 1/2 t Kosher salt and with 1 t black pepper.

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My salmon, sprinkled with Kosher salt and pepper.

In a blender combine 2 t onion powder, 1 t garlic powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 1 t whole cumin seed, 1 T whole fennel seed, 1 T whole coriander seed, and 1 star anise pod.

Blend all of the spices and pour in 1/3 C canola oil while the blender is running.

Brush this spice “pomade” all over the fish and let the fish sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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Salmon, brushed with pomade and left to sit for 30 minutes.

After resting, broil the fish for 15 minutes and check it for doneness. To check fish for doneness, look for three things:  1- the fish should be firm and bounce back when touched, 2 – the fish should flake easily when scraped with a fork, and 3 – the fish should be at 131 degrees in its thickest part.

IMG_6921Keep in mind that Alton’s cooking time is for three pounds of fish, so you will need to modify cooking time for a smaller piece of fish. My salmon was honestly overdone on the edges. To me, a good salmon recipe is one that does not overpower the fish, yet enhances it. I think this recipe does that. The fish is flavorful and moist, but has the added flavor pop from the combination of spices.

Curry Powder Blend

The last recipe in this episode is for Alton’s curry powder. I have a lidded tin in my basement that contains nothing but curry powders. For as long as I can remember, my parents used this tin to house their curry powders, and I inherited it a couple years ago. We have sweet curry powder, Thai curry powder, hot curry powder, and maharaja curry powder. Never, though, had I made my own curry powder… until now.

For Alton’s curry powder, in a lidded container combine 2 T cumin seed, 2 T cardamom seed (I had to use ground), 2 T coriander seed, 1/4 C ground turmeric, 1 T dry mustard, and 1 t cayenne pepper.

Shake the mixture to combine. Since Alton’s curry powder contains lots of whole spices, you can grind the curry powder just prior to use.

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Alton’s curry powder.

I never knew my paternal grandmother, but my dad began serving me her curry recipe when I was very young, and it has always been one of my favorite things. It is fun to alter the curry by mixing different curry powders each time. To really test Alton’s curry powder, I used it exclusively in Grandma’s curry and it passed the test very well.

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A bowl of my grandma’s curry made with Alton’s curry powder.

Alton’s curry powder is a mixture of sweetness, nuttiness, citrus, bitterness, and moderate heat. I would call this a very good all-around curry powder, and it has been added to the tin for future batches of curry goodness.

Breakfast Sausage

Sausage, I think, is one of those foods that very few people ever attempt to make at home, partially because it seems a bit daunting and because there are lots of decent options readily available. We do not eat a lot of sausage because we tend to try to eat a pretty healthy diet, but who doesn’t like some sausage every now and again? Once again, my Good Eats project pushed me to make something at home that I may otherwise not have tried, and it let me finally put to use the KitchenAid sausage attachment that has been sitting in the basement for five years.

A classic bulk breakfast sausage was Alton’s first project in this episode, and the only special equipment you really need for this is a meat grinder. Alton emphasizes that a food processor is not ideal for grinding fresh sausage because it results in sausage with a very dense texture. A food processor is suitable, however, for cured sausages. To make Alton’s breakfast sausage, begin by cubing two pounds of boneless pork butt and a half pound of pork fat back in to 1-inch pieces. I had to go to the local butcher shop to get my fat back.

Add the following to the cubed meat:  2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t black pepper, 2 t chopped fresh sage, 2 t chopped fresh thyme, 1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary, 1 T light brown sugar, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, and 1/2 t nutmeg.

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Herbs/spices for sausage, clockwise from upper left: Kosher salt, black pepper, fresh sage, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, light brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Mix the meat and spices thoroughly with your hands and chill the mixture for at least an hour; you want the fat to be cold prior to grinding, so it stays evenly dispersed in the sausage.

Once your meat has chilled, run it through your meat grinder of choice (using a fine die), one handful at a time.

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Bulk breakfast sausage.

Wrap the sausage in butcher paper, if you have it, and refrigerate it for up to a week, or freeze it for several months. I vacuum-sealed my sausage, freezing it for later use. When ready to cook your sausage, form the sausage into patties of desired size, and cook them in a pan over medium-low heat until they are no longer pink in the center.

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Breakfast sausage patties, cooking over medium-low heat until no longer pink.

Oh, and to clean the meat grinder, Alton suggests running stale bread through the grinder prior to washing it. We tried this sausage for breakfast one morning, eating it alongside English muffins.

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Alton’s breakfast sausage.

I found this sausage to really resemble the spicy bulk Jimmy Dean sausage my dad always ate when I was a kid. This sausage has lots of flavor from the variety of spices it contains, and is moderately spicy. The hardest part of making this bulk sausage is cubing the meat, which really is not much effort. All in all, this recipe taught me that bulk sausage is super easy to make and worth the effort.

Italian Sausage

The second recipe in this episode is for Italian sausage, which means you will need to have collagen sausage casings and a sausage-stuffing attachment. I bought my casings on Amazon.

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Collagen sausage casing.

The process for this sausage is very similar to that of the breakfast sausage above until you get to the stuffing portion. Fennel is a prominent spice in Italian sausage, so you first need to toast 1 1/2 t of fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat until fragrant.

Grind the fennel in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and add 2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t pepper, 1 T chopped parsley, and 2 pounds of cubed pork shoulder.

Toss the spices with the meat and refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to chill the fat.IMG_5235 Once chilled, grind the meat, one handful at a time, into a chilled bowl.

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Ground sausage.

Next, install the stuffing nozzle on your mixer, loading sausage into the hopper. Turn the mixer on, allowing it to run until sausage starts to come out of the nozzle.

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Ground sausage, loaded into the hopper.

Using a wooden spoon handle as a guide, load the collagen casing onto the nozzle (all the way to the far end of the casing), twisting the far end and clamping it with a clothes pin.

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Collagen sausage casing, loaded onto nozzle. Casing needs to be pushed all the way on. Excuse the somewhat phallic photograph.

Turn the mixer on at medium speed, using the plunger to push the sausage through while holding the casing with your other hand. This process is a lot easier with an additional set of hands. Once your casing is sufficiently stuffed, tie the end of the casing with twine.

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Filled casing.

It is now time to form links by twisting your desired width of sausage away from you (Alton did a hand-width portion). Form the second link by twisting the long part of the sausage the opposite direction. Be careful not to twist the links too much or the casing will tear; I found this out the hard way. Once your links are formed, twist them all into an accordion shape, keeping them all attached.

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Links formed.

Age the links in the refrigerator for at least two hours, and up to three days, before cooking or freezing. I will tell you that Alton makes the sausage stuffing/forming look really easy in the episode, while I found there to be a substantial learning curve. To cook Alton’s sausage, place your links in a lidded pan with 1/4-inch of water, and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes have passed, remove the lid from the pan and continue cooking your links, turning them every couple minutes until they are golden brown and have an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees.

As far as serving the sausages, Alton suggests serving them on buns with mustard.

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Italian sausage on a bun with mustard.

Though these sausages were a bit of a pain to form, we were really happy with their flavor. The toasted fennel flavor is prominent in these sausages and they taste as good as any Italian sausage you can buy.