Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Capriole Cheese:

One of the top priorities on my list of places to visit on vacation last week was Capriole.
It's no secret I have a cheese problem.

I've been known to plan entire shopping trips around what types of cheese I can get at what store. I've purchased and eaten an entire 3 lb half wheel of Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon aged goat gouda. I've thrown a cheese party. There is one drawer in our fridge perpetually reserved for cheese. And with Capriole, a maker of one of the top goat cheeses in the country, a mere 30 minutes away from our hotel in Louisville, a trip out to the farm was a given.

We didn't get to see much of the farm or the goats--it was a cold, rainy and dreary day on our visit. In the spring, the farm holds open houses, which I'd love to attend and we'll probably go back for.

We drove out through the rolling hills of Indiana, down a narrow road and finally made it to a long gravel driveway, with a sign simply stating "CAPRIOLE". The drive was wide enough for only one car, and wound through the woods to the farm where Judy Schad, the co-owner of Capriole, keeps her 400 goat herd. She's been making tangy, creamy goat cheese for over 25 years.

David peered down the drive and gave me a look of annoyance. I knew he was thinking of his new car's 18" Pirelli P Zero rims. "I'm sorry about the path!" I pled. "I didn't know there would be a gravel path." Grudgingly, he started driving through the woods.

We walked into the steamy farm store, where we could see staff moving about in the back room, washing down the kitchen after a long day of cheese making. We rang the goat bells for service and tried some of the cheeses that were available for purchase. As I watched the staff in the back, I noticed that one of them looked familiar.

It wasn't her face that tipped me off at first. It was the fact that though she was wearing gloves, a plastic apron, and dampened work clothes as she power washed a stainless steel sink, Judy was also sporting a large pearl choker. "David." I whispered. "There she is!"

As we were sampling various cheeses, she passed by us carrying a large cardboard box. "Great weather out there, isn't it?" She said, referring to the gloomy afternoon.

I tried to say something, but couldn't figure out what I wanted to say. I was in the presence of someone that I truly admired and never thought I'd meet--a determined lady who has worked extremely hard for many years and makes great cheese that's sold and enjoyed all over the country, co-manages a successful company, and was whimsical enough to wear pearls while cheese making.

So I settled for just smiling at her like an idiot instead.

And just like that, she was gone. "Well, excuse me. I have to go cook!"

She hustled past us with the box, presumably to the house across the drive. It was all I could do not to follow her out the door like a stray puppy, asking if I could stay at the farm as a cheese-making apprentice.

I know my reaction may seem odd to some of you that are not really into cheese, but hey--you've got your rock stars, and I've got mine.

David and I bought a lot of cheese: Sofia; a creamy cheese marbled with vegetable ash, Julianna, and aged raw milk cheese with herb rind; O' Banon, a milder cheese wrapped in bourbon soaked chestnut leaves; as well as two layered tortas, a caliente torta with herbs, and a bourbon chocolate torta with cocoa and bourbon soaked raisins (both aptly named fromage a trois). We took our haul back to our hotel and stashed in the mini fridge we had asked them to put in our room for cheese storage purposes.

Capriole cheese is available in many stores in the tri state, including Jungle Jim's gigantic cheese section. Whole Foods always has the plain goat cheese, Party source has some on occasion, and the Remke in Hyde Park Plaza has recently stepped up their game--I saw Sofia, Julianna, Pipers Pyramid and the Tortas there on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homemade Stock and Carnaroli Risotto:

"Paper jam?!? Why does it say paper jam when there is no paper jam!?" I exclaimed.

I was working at my law firm late, attempting to prepare a package of pleadings to send for filing. And at that very moment, I was just about ready to take off my shiny black pump and start wailing on what I am sure is a very expensive -- yet incredibly fussy -- copier.

I'd already taken the thing apart twice and extracted one crumpled piece of paper from it. Now I had opened it back up and, as far as I could peer into its gaping, mechanical maw, I didn't see any more paper. I put it back together and attempted to copy the rest of my packet--which was on page 177 of 250.

Paper jam! The copier informed me gleefully.

"That is it! Thing is lucky I'm not armed." I grumbled, grabbing my half copied stack. I stomped down to the main copy room, where I was promptly thrust into a full-scale rubber band war between the part-time employees.

That is where I found myself that evening. Dodging flying rubber bands in the copy room after hours, at a copier covered with random clown-rap quotes written on post-it notes.

When I finally finished all the copies, I left for home. The temperature had dropped considerably, and it was chilly. I was cold, and I had two wicked paper cuts. Luckily for me, it was national "Men Make Dinner Day," and we had all the ingredients to make one of my favorite dishes.

Carnaroli Risotto, how does it work?*
We had picked up some fancy Carnaroli rice from Findlay Market, and, with Jeff's helpful instruction, had made our own stock a few days prior with onion, carrot, celery and 3 pounds of chicken necks (which only cost $2 from Heist!), also purchased at Findlay.

We've made risotto before, after we started watching Hell's Kitchen and were curious what the big deal was and why Gordon Ramsay kept screaming about it. We've made risotto with beef stock, chicken stock, seafood stock and vegetable stock.

With me as sous chef, David made risotto and we roasted a pork tenderloin. On a chilly evening, the risotto was perfect, and the homemade stock really took it up a level. The rice was very good, however, I'm not convinced that it's worth the hefty price tag ($9.00 a bag) as opposed to Arborio, which is less expensive.

"Tri-force" Stock recipe:
3 lbs. Chicken necks
3 lg. Celery stalks
3 lg. Carrots
3 lg. Garlic cloves
3 Bay leaves
1 md. White onion
3 qt. Water

Wash the celery, and peel the carrots, onion, and garlic cloves. Dice all the vegetables except the garlic, which you will leave whole.

In a heavy 5 qt. dutch oven, brown the chicken in batches. When finished browning, drain the rendered fat, leaving a few tablespoons behind. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent and softened. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Just when the pot has begun to boil, transfer it to an oven preheated to 170 - 180 F. This is probably about as low as your oven can go; you do not want the stock to boil or simmer, since the high temperature will destroy the subtle flavors. This is one of the key advantages of homemade over store-bought stock. Let the stock cook like this for three to four hours, stirring every hour or so.

When finished, strain the stock to remove the solids (especially the bay leaves!). The stock will be very aromatic and flavorful, but quite bland from the lack of salt. You can leave the stock unsalted for cooking purposes, or salt it to taste. We gravitate toward a ratio of 1 tsp of Morton coarse kosher salt per pint. The brand and type of salt you use can dramatically alter this ratio, though. CHOW has a good article on the sodium level of different salt types here.

Whatever stock you don’t plan to use in the next few days should be frozen. If frozen, the stock will keep indefinitely.

When the stock is refrigerated, you will notice a layer of solid fat that has formed on the surface. Do NOT skim or throw away. It carries a significant amount of the flavor. We're serious. Keep the fat.
*If you're up to date on your memes and parodies, or perchance your clown rap, you may recognize what I'm referring to.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stehlin's meats:

We were on a lard-quest, and we could not be stopped. We could not be dissuaded from our goal of local, kettle cooked lard, free of stabilizers and preservatives.

The purpose of our visit

Of course, we had good reason. The latest step on David's art of the biscuit journey was to make buttermilk biscuits with real lard. And so began our quest. After a few inquiries and many referrals, we made the journey up to Colerain to Stehlin's meats, one of the only butcher shops in Ohio that slaughters their own meat. And where we, more importantly, could find the much sought after lard.

I learned a lot of things during our visit, tour of the facility and short interview with Mr. John Stehlin. I also learned, more importantly, that when your co-workers ask about your weekend, it's probably not ideal to lead off with an enthusiastic recount of your slaughterhouse visit. Just trust me on this one.

Stehlin's has been in business since 1913. We took a short tour with John as he showed us around.

How do things work here?

"Well...in what I call a de-ssembly-line process, we process cattle on Mondays and hogs on Tuesdays, then we sell it in the store all week long. The animals are all local, sometimes occasionally from as far as eastern Indiana."

piggy de-fuzzer

"In our pork processing room, we make all our sausages, cook them in the large kettle here, and stuff them into the casing. Over here is one of our sausage storage coolers and over here is one of our smoking coolers. They lay in cure for 2 weeks, then we take them and put in the smoke house. We smoke ham, sausage, cottage ham, bacon, smoked pork loin, dried beef. We still use real hickory wood, without any sort of liquid smoke or shavings."

real hickory

that's some nice wood there

How many hours would you say you work?

"We put in 5-6 days a week. We don't work on Sundays unless we have to. That happens occasionally, especially around Christmas. We all average about 46 hours a week. When I was a kid, we worked 6 days a week, and we were up to around 55-60 hours a week."

When did you start working here?

"When I was growing up I started when I was about 12, then worked through high school, when
I graduated high school, I started full time here."

Stehlin's is being run by its fourth generation, and John's son recently started working there. Stehlin's is unique because much of the meat you buy from your store butcher--especially the pork--comes pre-slaughtered and shipped in a box from a larger slaughterhouse that has several farms' animals from all over the country contracted to it.

What are some specific products that people come back to Stehlin's for?

"We've got a lot of unique products. The bone in beef brings a lot of people in. The variety of pork cuts--a Boston butt, you can't get them any fresher then we have here. Our fresh smoked pork sausage, cottage ham and bacon. We also have what we consider the top quality beef and pork, that keeps people coming back."

cottage ham

There are also sweetbreads available for purchase, something we've never seen available at any butcher shop. We filled our grocery bag with the much sought after lard, two rib eyes, pork sausage, goetta, Canadian bacon, and a slice of "Johnny in the bag", Stehlin's twist on a traditional blood sausage.

herrrrre's Johnny!

Stehlin's has a deli, and apparently fantastic buffalo chicken salad.
Someone had even written a thank-you note about it, which was displayed proudly on the counter.

The next morning, we made the awaited biscuits with sausage gravy. It was incredible how much the texture of the biscuit changed using lard instead of butter. I found I could only eat half of the rich biscuit, and promptly laid down on the floor afterward, ready for a post brunch nap.

and cue Biscuit and gravy food-porn


Our trip brought much reward. Later that week, we made the goetta, which I liked because it was not heavily seasoned. Good goetta doesn't need a lot of spices in it, in my opinion. It was a little looser than what we were used to, which made it challenging to cook. We made a dirty rice dish with the goetta and served it alongside the rib eyes, which were expertly butchered.