Thursday, June 16, 2011

Some Damn Good BBQ & A Charcutepalooza Retraction

Last night, James invited Zac and I to be part of an elite rib-taste-testing-squad. Our delicious assignment was to help determine which ribs would be entered in Woodbine Park's BBQ competition this coming weekend. Of course, I can't divulge any of James' secrets but I can tell you that his ribs are killer! I'm sure he'll tell all once the competition is in the bag, so check out his blog to read all about it after the weekend.

Since the grill was already fired up, we figured why not throw on some of our fresh sausages. Now we would be able to experience them as originally intended. Zac dubbed this creation the "club sausage." Turkey and bacon with cranberry-walnut relish all conveniently stuffed in a sausage and served on a bun cut into three sections.

In my last post, I talked about how the sausages were a bit on the salty side and the bacon had overpowered the turkey. Well, here's where the Charcutepalooza retraction comes in: I TAKE IT BACK!! These sausages were not at all overly salty, in fact they had the perfect balance of salt and sweet. The general consensus was that they tasted like thanksgiving dinner all rolled up into one bite.  You could distinctly taste each of the ingredients that went into these lovely little delights. 

I'd say that the lesson learned here is to let sausage mellow overnight so all the ingredients can become friends and learn to get along in a wonderfully balanced and harmoniously tasty way.

I guess the big question now is: what other full meals can we stuff into a single sausage??

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Challenge #5

This months challenge was "stuffing" and stuff-it we did - into our super busy schedules... heh.. This month's sausage-making came dangerously close to unraveling. James and I have been trying to co-ordinate our schedules for weeks now, and yesterday, being the last day before the posting deadline, was looking grim. It seemed like we were going to have to call this month off. Luckily, I have a husband who has been dying to get his hands on the sausage stuffer. He announced to me yesterday morning that he would take over for James and help me get this month's challenge completed. He even took the work out of deciding what kind of sausage to make.  He chose turkey, bacon, cranberry, walnut sausage. After an announcement like that, how could I possibly skip this creation? So this month Zac and I tackled the challenge together, while James missed out on all the fun (but don't worry, we saved him some sausage).

This is probably going to come as quite a shock to some of you, but I am terrified of cooking. I LOVE to eat and could spend all day in the kitchen but I don't really like to cook, especially without someone there to guide me. I have a bit of a history of ruining just about anything I attempt to cook. Without fail, I seem to screw it up somehow. I'm a baker, I revel in precision and measurement and rules. I don't really have a very good grasp on 'doing what I feel the food wants' and 'letting the ingredients speak to me' which is probably why Charcuterie appeals to me so much. It's a rather scientific way of preparing food.

Over the last few challenges, I've sort of just deferred to James in the cooking department. I've followed his direction to ensure that I couldn't possibly screw up our meat making. This month, it was my turn to take the lead. Making sausage had seemed easy but I was convinced it only felt that way because James was there to keep me from destroying dinner. Oh well, I was really in it now. The only thing left to do was crack open the bible (Michael Rhulman's Charcuterie) and dive right in.

I found a recipe for turkey and cherry sausage that seemed like a good jumping off point for the sausage that Zac had envisioned. For the most part the directions for making sausage read pretty much like any recipe for baked goods. Of course instead of flour and sugar using meat and fat. Sausage needs to have a specific fat to meat ratio. Our recipe didn't have bacon in it and since bacon is pretty much equal parts fat and meat we decided to consider it 50/50 and adjusted the turkey and back fat accordingly. Once I had the meat to fat ratio figured out, I scaled out all my seasonings just as the recipe called for, substituted cranberries for cherries and added walnuts. All the while mindful of sticking to Rhulman's ratios. I had the meat diced and seasoned and sitting in the freezer ready to go when Zac got home.

By the time Zac finished work and we had ground the meat, it was well past dinner time and we were both starving. We just couldn't muster up the energy needed to actually prepare a meal and knew we couldn't wait for the sausage to be ready, so we sat down to a quick dinner of cereal before we began to stuff our sausages. Fast forward past our embarrassingly sad Charcutepalooza dinner to a lovely coil of sausage sitting on our kitchen counter. The marbling was pronounced and the casings had filled uniformly. We had crossed the finish line. We quickly cooked up one of our little links as a late-night snack. Here's where I re-learned a valuable lesson that I had apparently forgotten: Bacon is salty.  While our sausages turned out nearly perfect, they were a bit on the salty side and had a more distinct bacon taste than we had expected. The turkey had been overpowered, but the cranberries gave the sausages a nice sweetness. If I were to attempt putting bacon into sausage again, I would reduce the amount of bacon and leave the salt out until after I had mixed the meat and tasted it, before stuffing the casings. Other than that, I would do everything else the same.

All in all this challenge was a success.  While this sausage may be a bit overpowering on it's own, we're thinking it will make a killer addition to a simple pasta with fresh tomato sauce - hold the salt.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Little Promo That Could

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm rather blown away by the level of response I've been getting from my promo. Just as I was beginning to feel like the chatter was tapering off, both the Applied Arts Blog and PDN Online wrote a little something about my bacon-y package this week. I'm pretty stoked, so I thought I'd share.

For the Applied Arts Article go here.
Click here to read what Heather Morton has to say in her PDN interview for the "Promos I Kept" column.
P.S. Thanks Heather for choosing my promo to talk about... again!

Since I couldn't dream of posting without sharing some images with you, here are three snappys to get you through the day:

Behind the scenes from Charcutepalooza

In and Out Burger in LA - ohhh yum!

 Seriously THE BEST dessert on the planet! I'm salivating just remembering it. No joke.
Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel & Crème Fraiche from Gjelina in LA. Go There.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sharing the Bacon-y Love

I've been holding onto this for some time now and trust me it hasn't been easy. It's a little project I've been dying to share: The promotional piece that would formally introduce me as a "brand" to the world.... Or at least a selected group of Art Directors, Ad Peeps and Magazine Folks.

Over the past few years I've attempted to make my "debut" as a photographer but have put it on hold for numerous reasons. When I left Westside Studio, where I had worked as a producer, the timing was perfect and everything began to fall into place. I suddenly had time on my hands and was compelled to fill every second with my eye to a lens. I spent a year shooting and putting together a portfolio that I could be proud of. I wasn't going to come out without a bang. I needed to create an image that was distinctly me and would showcase my personality before you even knew who "me" was.

When I first found out that my friend James (who you may know as my partner in crime for Charcutepalooza) makes his own bacon, I immediately thought: Make your own bacon??! You can do that? What does that even mean? I had to shoot James in action. Soon after we had booked a shoot date, I came across a recipe for bacon caramels.. yup you read that right. That folks, was the pig-in-the-blanket that began the creative process of designing and executing what I was pretty sure would be a unique promo that would hopefully garner some attention.  

Here's how it all came together:
With all the debate going on these days about paper promos (which I won't get into...cuz that's a whole other post in itself) I was hesitant to even put this project together, but it really wasn't the kind of thing that I could e-mail around. Right off the bat, I decided to go small. There were too many images to use on a postcard so a book seemed like the right solution.  Sending out a book of images still didn't seem exciting enough to me. I wanted the recipient to have the full experience of the story. I decided that I would make and hand wrap candies to go with each promo (I sent two with bacon and two sans-bacon, for any non-adventurous eaters/vegetarians/non-bacon eaters out there). The next question was how to package the pieces in a fun way. Candy boxes. Through some stroke of pure luck and a lot of leg work I managed to find candy boxes complete with inserts that held four candies and were the exact same size as the books I wanted to send (so you have an idea of scale, the packages are 3.5"x 3.5"). Now I had a box containing four candies with my book neatly tucked inside. How did I wrap and address the packages? Butchers paper with a meat label to bring the entire project full circle.

You can see the story on my website by clicking on the I Heart Bacon gallery.
And if you're so inclined, you too can make bacon caramel.

I have to send some special thanks out into the world to the folks that helped me out of the goodness of their hearts:
Aleks Wallner, an incredibly talented artist who drew the little piggy for the cover of my book.
Dana Harrison, a graphic design guru and all around lovely lady, who designed my logos.
And not to be forgotten, James Kennedy, for letting me invade his kitchen and stick my lens in his face. Oh and for the bacon.

The overall response to this little promo of mine has been rather overwhelming. I went into it assuming that I wouldn't hear a peep. In the first couple of days, I received emails from people thanking me for the afternoon snack, a handful of requests for meetings, an Art Director who Tweeted about the promo, a shout out from Heather Morton (yay!), aaaaannnd a job!

Perhaps the moral of this story is: People like bacon and if you send it, they will call.