sausage party: far more wholesome than it sounds, trust me.

among my close friends here in izu, i think i am probably the most omnivorous of the group.  one guy in our group eats nothing but pan-fried chicken breasts and cheese.  my canadian buddies basically live off of various cuts of pork and eggs.  my buddy up in susono survives off of kimchi, beer, and meat.  you get the picture.

but don’t misunderstand me.  i am far from criticizing these wonderful human beings.  i love meat.  i love cooking it and eating it.  which means when we hang out, the only natural course of action is forego all of those frilly, unnecessary parts of a meal (see: vegetables, starches, fruits) and go straight for the protein.

we built a smoker from scratch just so we could make home-cured bacon and smoked salmon and all kinds of delicious treats.  but lately we’ve decided to kick it up a few notches.  we decided to make sausage from scratch.  a friend gave us a meat grinder, our canadian sausage matron got together the necessary accoutrements (e.g. sausage casings, pork lard, spices), and we all met in susono for a sausage pulling party.  dirty jokes ensued.

despite our abundant innuendos, we ended up making nine kilograms of sausage in the end.

we dedicated three kilograms of meat to each type of sausage that we made.  my sausage was carnitas-inspired, ana’s was cajun seasoned, and brian’s was a sweet italian sausage.  i’m not exactly sure what spices went into the other two, but the recipe for my sausage is as follows.

mexican-style cinnamon sausage

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you’ll need:

  • two kilograms of lean pork
  • about one kilograms of pork lard
  • one white onion
  • six cloves of garlic
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • cinnamon
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • habanero powder
  1. get your meat grinder out of the freezer.  assemble the weapon.  remember, the colder the meat grinder and the colder the meat, the easier the sausage will be to work with.
  2. get out your casings and soak them in water until they thaw.  leave them in the water bath for a little while.
  3. feed the pork and lard through the meat grinder together.  we found that if one person uses a small glass cup to press down on the meat while another person works the grinder crank, this process goes a lot quicker.  once the meat is ground, put it in a big bowl for mixing.
  4. mince the garlic and the onion as fine as possible.  remember, big chunks will cause the skins to break when you are filling them.  try to get the veggies as close to a paste as you possibly can.  once minced, throw them into the meat.
  5. add enough paprika to visibly change the color of the meat.  add a generous amount of coriander.  fresh cilantro also works super well, but if you use it make sure to use only the leaves and chop them into oblivion.  the stalks of fresh cilantro will puncture your casings and it will all be over before you started.
  6. next, add cinnamon and cumin.  be careful with both.  the cumin will offer a lot of flavor to your sausage, but make sure not to overdo it.  the cinnamon is crucial because it provides the delicious aroma, but it can also make your sausage a little too woody tasting if you get excited and add too much.  remember, if you aren’t certain about your spices, you can always take a tiny portion, make a patty, and toss it in a frying pan to get a taste test.
  7. once you finish with the cumin, cinnamon, coriander, garlic, and onion, add salt and pepper to taste.  last, give just a smattering of habanero powder.
  8. get in their with your mitts.  use your hands to work the meat and make sure it is completely mixed.  i like to grab handfuls of meat and make a fist over and over again.  this tends to break up any bubbles of unmixed spices or large chunks of unbroken meat.  it also assures your lard and meat are sufficiently integrated.
  9. change the nozzle on your meat grinder.  we had both a grinding nozzle (which looks like a pasta extruder), and a plastic funnel-like attachment that terminates in a tube.  the funnel-tube attachment is the one you want.  pop it on there.
  10. add a little bit of your spiced meat into the top of the grinder and give it a good two or three cranks.  you don’t have a casing on yet, so it’ll just come out of the tube.  while this might seem pointless, it is getting any air that might be in the grinder out before you put on a casing.  air bubbles in your sausage can cause problems.
  11. it’s time.  get a casing and run your fingers from end to end to get as much water off it as you can.  slide one end onto the nozzle and bunch it up (as if you were putting on tights or long socks).  finally, tie a knot (or a double knot) in the end.  when you are ready, tell your buddy to start a-cranking.
  12. as the meat fills the casing, you are going to want to put your hand under the tube and slowly guide it off the nozzle.  you might need to stop and adjust the casing or use your fingers to massage it if it looks like a bubble coming on.  sometimes, you might need to apply a little water to the outside of the casing if it looks like it is having trouble coming off the end of the nozzle.  any number of things can go wrong.  just keep your eye on it and be gentle.
  13. make the long tube of sausage into a coil on a plate or in a bowl.  as you reach the end of the casing, leave yourself one or an inch or so to tie off the end with another knot.
  14. once your coil is ready, start twisting off some links.  remember, be gentle.
  15. when you have finished twisting the links, hang them somewhere to dry out a little bit.  the fridge is okay, too.
  16. freeze them, pop them in the fridge, or fry them right away.  these particular sausages are amazing at breakfast time.  they lend themselves particularly well to huevos rancheros, but they have all kinds of non-traditional applications as well.

huevos rancheros: like nasa, but for chickens.

do you remember space camp?  even if you didn’t go to the official super-fancy nasa-sponsored space camp, you probably took some summer school course about space or something as a kid.  and if you didn’t do either of those, chances are you probably wanted to and felt super dejected when you friends told you all of their awesome space camp stories.

in any case, being an astronaut is one of those jobs that mesmerized me when i was just a pup.  of course, i was more into the idea of becoming the president or a fighter pilot or a scientist.  but if a random member of nasa came up to me when i was a six-year-old and told me i was accepted to the official astronaut training program, you bet your butt i would have gone without thinking twice.  space is huge and amazing and full of possibilities for six-year-olds, especially when the farthest away you have ever gone in your life is the public pool.

anyway, i’m pretty sure that six-year-olds think about becoming an astronaut like chickens think about becoming huevos rancheros.

like six-year-olds and space, most chickens probably have only a vague knowledge of mexican food.  never in their wildest dreams would they have considered that they would become a delicious breakfast fit for a latin american farmer.  i like to think that if i were a chicken and i was given a choice, i would go for the rancheros sauce without thinking twice.  sure, i could hold out for a while and hope to become sous-vide or chicken cordon bleu, but more often than not i would end up something highly processed and much less tasty (like kfc, chicken nuggets, or instant ramen flavor packets).

well, i suppose that is enough strange asides for now.  it’s recipe time.

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the club sandwich: and i’m not even a member.

the term “club sandwich” is misleading for a lot of people.  some people think it is a particular sandwich composed of cold cuts, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  some people attach the word club to a frilly toothpick.  still others qualify any sandwich that has three pieces of bread as a club sandwich

because it doesn’t seem like this issue will be settled any time soon, i decided that i too should contribute to the quagmire of opinions.  if you ask me, a club sandwich, rather than being defined by its contents, seems to be defined by its shape and the sides with which it is served.

some club sandwiches contain roast beef, some contain mustard, some are served with pickles and still others are not.  but i challenge you to find a restaurant version of the club sandwich that isn’t cut into triangles and served with a side of some form of potatoes (whether chips or fries or potato salad).  although it might seem strange, it makes sense to me that the defining feature of a club sandwich is its sides and the manner in which it is plated (namely, cut twice instead of in half).

my personal club sandwich contains bacon, tomato, and three pieces of toasted bread, but that is where the similarities to your run-of-the-mill restaurant club end.  homemade chips, homemade condiments, and crispy home-cured bacon make my club a homey force to be reckoned with.

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cobb salad: domo arigato, mister robert.

i always wondered why a cobb salad was called a cobb salad.  when i was a kid, i always imagined that it had something to do with corn (which was of course perpetuated by the fact i had no idea what the ingredients of a cobb salad were, or how to spell it for that matter).  as i got older, i just assumed someone named it after a person or a place just like most other well-known foods are.

recently, my curiosity got the better of me, and i looked it up.  looking back, i kind of wish i never had.  it is, of course, named after the restaurateur who was the (supposed) original creator of the cobb salad, none other than a mr. robert howard cobb.

yes, you read that correctly.  his name was bob cobb.

poor guy.  at least he invented a delicious salad to soften the blow of having cruel parents.  thanks for not losing faith, buddy.  i dedicate tonight’s dinner to you.  this is my japanese-style take on your classic american man-salad.

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an ode to makoto-chan (and mekemeke).

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i have this friend.  two of my really close (canadian) friends who, at the time, happened to live right next to the snack bar he owned and operated introduced me to him.  and when i first stopped by his restaurant, we instantly hit it off.

makoto has a little bit of a belly, a shaved head, and a laugh like a clown.  i have never seen him wear any shoes other than sandals, even in winter.  he loves to drink, he loves to sing karaoke after he closes up shop, and he loves to meet new people and ask them all kinds of questions (some of which are far from wholesome).  he has a collection of cell phone photos of himself taken in public places during the wee hours of the morning, in most of which he is super drunk and as naked as a newborn child.  in other words, he epitomizes the word goofy.

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tuesdays, thursdays, and sundays with pmk.

as i was viewing the archives of pmk, it dawned on me that i have not the slightest semblance of a schedule when it comes to blogging.  and while i don’t normally consider stream-of-consciousness, disorganized dissemination of information to be problematic, it occurred to me that a blog without a schedule could be difficult for readers to check out with any regularity.  after all, we busy bees have stuff to do (e.g. sleeping, working, eating, cooking, and/or using the restroom).

and so, for the sake of readability and protecting my overworked widdle fingers, i have decided to post regularly on tuesday, thursday, and sunday nights at around 10:00 pm my time (8 am central standard time in the usa).  the occasional post might slip in on an odd day now and again, but i’m going to do everything within my power to stick to the schedule.

stop in when you get the time, a feel free to shoot me a message if you have something you want to see me cook or a recipe you loved.

take it easy, and happy cooking.

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mexico in japan: carnitas seasoned tex-mex sliders

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japan excels at mimicking the cuisine of other nations.  in fact, it is often cited (by japanese people) that many foreigners come to japan to eat foods native to their own countries of origin.  chinese people often comment that chinese food in japan is better than the chinese food readily available in china.  similarly, restaurants which serve authentic italian and french cuisine are often top-notch (and super expensive).

but latin american cuisine, especially mexican food, is generally misunderstood.  because i have often considered mexican food to be one of the cheapest and most delicious foods to make, this fact confuses and enrages me.

despite this, to seem more international, school lunches often include menu items such as “mexican pork saute” or “taco rice,” which are terrifyingly dissimilar to any latin american flavor profile i have ever experienced.  which isn’t to say they taste bad.  they just taste exactly like a japanese cook used the ingredients he had on hand to make something that vaguely resembled mexican food he saw in a picture.

tragically, on such days, i get to hankering for real mexican food, which is an itch not easily scratched in japan.  hot peppers are practically nonexistent, fresh cilantro costs your first-born child, and tortillas are sighted about as often as big foot.  and so, in such moments of desperation, i turn to my old friend tex-mex.  no, it isn’t authentic mexican cuisine.  but it is delicious, contains ingredients i can actually find, and is a heck of a lot closer to the flavor profile of mexican cuisine than the japanese knock-offs are.

and thus, the carnitas seasoned tex-mex slider was born.

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