Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Elk Chorizo

One of my partners has a friend in Arizona who goes elk hunting in that state and gave him some elk chorizo made from an elk he'd shot. My partner brought me a package of it. 
Elk photographed in Custer State Park, South Dakota.
Packaged elk chorizo
Chorizo is typically made of pork with dried and smoked red peppers, but there are many regional varieties, including those that contain meat other than pork, some that are sweet rather than spicy, and some that are cured and can be eaten without cooking and some that must be cooked. 
Elk chorizo out of the packaging. Note the orange-ish spice reflected in the juices. 
This particular chorizo was not in a casing and was raw, requiring cooking. It had spice in it, but I'm not sure what the spice was. The spice was quite strong. 

I think of chorizo as a breakfast food and decided to make it as part of an open-face sandwich with heirloom tomato slices, guacamole and hard-boiled quail eggs on a slice of bread. I also had some heirloom tomato slices that I combined with fried chicken eggs and guacamole.
Chorizo to the right with hard-boiled white quail eggs insert in spots. 
The chorizo had a very distinctive taste, unlike any chorizo I've tried before. I believe most of the distinctive taste related to the gaminess of the meat and not the spice used with it. I also mixed up fried chopped yellow onion with it. I loved the hard-boiled quail eggs which added a very nice texture and mild taste and would have liked even more of them added to the sandwich. 

The spice in the chorizo was not my favorite and I think I would have preferred the ground elk without it. But it was a different way to prepare the game meat and I'm sure a way of making it palatable to those who do not appreciate the taste of wild game. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

75 Day Dry-Aged Tomahawk Wagyu - Sous Vide and Grilled or Fried

This may be the best piece of meat I will ever eat. Anshu Pathak of Exotic Meat Market, the king of meat, knew I was looking for a good dry-aged ribeye. He called and let me know that he had a 75 day dry-aged wagyu tomahawk steak. 

This had everything I would ever want in a steak: (a) it was aged well beyond the 45 days that I'd wanted to try; (b) it was a ribeye and thus naturally fatter than the New Yorks that he personally favors; and (c) it was Australian wagyu, a naturally fatter and higher quality beef. 

Because it was so thick, I decided to cook it sous vide so that it would cook evenly throughout. I decided to follow my recipe for sous vide bison filet which is fabulous. So I sawed the handle off the tomahawk so that I could fit the ribeye into a vacuum sealed bag and included salt, pepper and butter with it. I cooked the ribeye and the handle at a water temperature of 55 degrees centigrade for a little over three hours. 

The ribeye, just out of the sous vide bag.
Afterwards, I cut it into pieces and fried part of it in a hot frying pan with butter for several minutes on each side and part of it on my outdoor grill at a very high temperature for several minutes on each side. Both were good, but I think I liked the pan fried version best.
Note how uniformly it is cooked inside.
You can see from the pictures that the meat was cooked uniformly throughout and the frying/grilling gave it a nice outer crust. It was butter soft, moist, fatty and fabulously flavored. Just about perfect. 

I'm sorry for so many pictures, but it really was an amazing steak. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Grilled 81 Day Dry-Aged Wagyu Striploin

I've been on the hunt for dry-aged meat for awhile. This post in May 2013 gives some background on the dry-aging process and the changes that occur in the meat. It dealt with a 30 day dry-aged New York steak and a 30 day dry-aged ribeye. I was not particularly impressed with either. Earlier this year, I tried a 40 day dry-aged prime ribeye and I liked it much more, in fact I loved it, as did other family members. 

Later this year I was talking to Anshu Pathak of Exotic Meat Market and he found an 81 day dry-aged wagyu strip loin (same as a New York) for me.

I much prefer ribeyes to New Yorks, because I like the extra fatiness, but I could not pass up the opportunity to try a steak aged that long. This wagyu was from Australian cattle which have been cross-bred with Japanese kobe style cattle and are naturally fatter than typical beef. 
I grilled the steak on our outdoor grill and it carved up into beautiful slabs of pinkish/red meat. The aging had: (a) tenderized the meat and it was almost like butter; (b) reduced the blood in the meat which changed the color; and (c) reduced the fat in the meat, which is why having wagyu beef, which is naturally more fatty, was a plus. Those reductions of fat, blood and other moisture concentrate the flavor in the beef and give it a stronger flavor. 
I did not detect any hint of blue cheese taste, or any outrageously different taste, but the taste was subtly different, in a nice way. Anshu will say, "someone asked him if alligator tastes like chicken?" He'll respond, "no, it tastes like alligator." I can't adequately describe the taste other than to say "it tastes like 81 day dry-aged wagyu."  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ayam Cemani Chicken - Sous Vide

The Ayam Cemani chicken is a breed from Indonesia which has hyperpigmentation that makes it entirely black (darkened because of increased melanin), inside and out. Ayam means "chicken"  and "cemani" is the village on the island of Java where it originated. The beak, tongue, comb, wattles, feathers, meat, bones and organs appear black.  
This picture of an ayam cemani rooster is from Wikipedia. 
The ayam cemani chicken I got from Exotic Meat Market.
With the head, neck and lower limbs removed.
Cut into pieces. Note that the inside flesh and bones are dark.
An August 4, 2015 article in the Daily Mail calls it the "Lamborghini of poultry," and "gothic." It is believed they were eaten in religious rituals because "the blackness...makes it an ideal bridge between the human and the supernatural world." A different article, speaking with a native Indonesian, quotes, "Hardly anyone eats them...Most people are interested only in their magical blood." That said, they have red, not black, blood, unlike the rest of the bird. The blood is claimed to have healing qualities, can cure physical problems and can reverse bad luck. "Just put it in a bowl, present it with other offerings and murmur the right incantations...usually guided by an animist guru."   

Anshu Pathak of Exotic Meat Market raises these chickens on his farm in Southern California. I obtained one from him that had just been dressed. It was a hen that still retained its head and claws. This was obviously no Foster Farms chicken, not even considering the blackness of it. It was lean and wiry. That should have been a hint that normal cooking was not the best way to go, but I ignored the signs and decided to cook it like a normal chicken. 

I looked up sous vide times for chicken, vacuum sealed it with butter, salt and pepper, and then regretted no special preparation. It was stringy and tough, so much so that I put most of it back in the sous vide for a substantially longer cooking time, which helped some, but it was still tough. 
After cooking it sous vide.
Note the dark meat and tendons on this thigh.
Stringy tendons remain after much of the meat has been gnawed off.
This was a culinary adventure, and fun because of it, but not a culinary treat. If I have an opportunity to try one again, I will probably brine it, then cook it at a low heat for a very long time in a crock pot to help break down the tendons and other tough parts. 

I've eaten dark chicken before. There are about 25 breeds of chicken with dark pigmentation, the most common one being the silkie. However, unlike the ayam cemani, the silkie does not always have dark feathers. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Basilica of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral - New York City

What is now the Basilica of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral in Manhattan was built between 1809 and 1815 and was the cathedral for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York until the current Saint Patrick's Cathedral opened in 1879.
Because of small street, vegetation and tall building, it is difficult to get a good outside photo of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.
There are claims it was the largest church in New York at the time it was built. It has been a parish church since 1879 in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. Liturgies are given in Chinese, Spanish and English. Pope Benedict XVI declared it a minor basilica in 2010. 

Looking toward the main altar.
Looking toward the entrance and the organ pipes.
View of portion of the grave yard which surrounds three sides of the building. 
A side altar.
Of interest, it has been featured in several movies: a baptism scene in The Godfather;  Michael Corleone receiving an honor from the church in The Godfather Part III; and a scene in the graveyard was in Mean Streets produced by Martin Scorsese. 
St. Patrick in stained glass.
Mary and the Assumption
Young Mary with her mother, Anna.
Young Jesus with his father, Joseph.
We visited because we have added basilicas to our list of travel interests. It is a nice, relatively old church, but not something I would go out of the way to see on a vacation (although I did). 
A sample of the Stations of the Cross (Station 11)
Station 10

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception - Washington, D.C.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is mind-blowing to me on many levels. First, the name is impossible for me to remember: (a) I'm not Catholic, so basilica is a term of recent understanding for me; (b) national shrine has no meaning to me in this context; and (c) immaculate conception leads me scrambling to Wikipedia for meaning. 
Front of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 
A side view. The chairs are set up outside for graduation. 
It is prettier when surrounded by greenery. I love the blue dome. 
A closer look at the dome.
The decoration outside has a very different look to it. 
Why not call it the Washington Cathedral? Googling reveals that the cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Washington is the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, so cathedral is out. Why not call it the Washington Basilica? I don't find any reason not to. That would be so much easier. 
Main altar of the Basilica
Scene from part of one of the domes.
Part of a fascinating dome from one of the side chapels.
Ceiling from a side chapel.
Dome from a side chapel.
Ceiling from a side chapel.
We also visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore on this trip and I confuse the name of that church with this one. Fortunately, it can be referred to as the Baltimore Basilica. How can they both be national shrines? Shouldn't there be just one national shrine for Mary? Or is the shrine focused on Mary's attributes? Is Washington the national shrine for the attribute of the immaculate conception and Baltimore the national shrine for the attribute of the assumption? Are there national shrines for Mary as a virgin, or any other of Mary's attributes? Googling reveals that immaculate conception is the confusing Catholic concept that Mary was born without original sin. In other words, she was born sinless. It does not mean that Mary was conceived like Jesus, through a virgin, as Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents (names that are also new to me), conceived her in the normal way. Mary's assumption, refers to how Mary died, or perhaps didn't die. Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven and it has not been determined theologically whether she actually died. So immaculate conception and assumption are separate attributes. Looking at a long list of shrines in the U.S., many of which are not national, and many not having to do with Mary, I'm finding the Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians, in Hubertus, Wisconsin; the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, in Orlando, Florida; the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio; and so on and so forth. So it does appear to be related to Mary's attributes. Next question.  Can you just call your church a national shrine? Googling reveals, no, the church has to meet certain requirements and is given the name by the National Episcopal Conference, an assembly of Catholic bishops
Mosaics from a side chapel.

I addressed the title of basilica for the first time in my post on another Immaculate Conception church, this one in Mobile, Alabama
Interesting carving from a side chapel.
Second, this church has more decoration, more varied decoration, and more unusual decoration inside it than any other church I've ever visited. Judy did a post on it and did an amazing job of it. She identified and showed pictures of many of the 70 chapels within it. I'm not going there. I didn't have the patience to closely review and read about the chapels while I was there and I don't have the patience to do it now. This church frankly has an overwhelming richness of decoration that vastly dwarfs any church we've ever visited. 
Mosaic of Jesus being baptized by John.
Mosaic of the Transfiguration.
Third, it was busy when we visited. Graduation for the Catholic University of America, the grounds of which surround the church, was about to take place. The main level was full of family and friends and the basement was full of graduating students and faculty dressed in cap and gown. 
St. Stephen of Hungary being baptized. 
And fourth, it is a riot of color. All of the lights were on and bright gold, deep orange and yellow seemed to dominate. Its impact as a church on me was similar to the impact of modern action films on me - they are so intense and so action packed that I feel like I need Ritalin after viewing one. I had that same overwhelming of my senses in this church. I'm sure it would probably be different under other circumstances, with fewer people and not so brightly lit. 
Crypt Chapel, which I really liked. 
This basilica does not have its own parish. It serves the Catholic University of America which donated the land and surrounds it, and it also serves the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 
Examples of Stations of the Cross which were around the Crypt Chapel. They are made of clay. Station 10 where Jesus is stripped of his garments. 
Station 11 where Jesus is nailed to the cross. 
It is large. It is the largest Catholic church in North America, but it is smaller than the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., both of which are Episcopal churches.  However, it feels larger than they do, at least in part because it is crammed full, every nook and cranny, with chapels and ornament. 
Pope Pius XI donated this mosaic in 1923.
Construction began in 1920 and it opened, unfinished, in 1959. Pope John Paul II visited it in 1990 and designated it a minor basilica at that time. Benedict the XVI visited in 2008 and Francis visited in 2015 when he canonized Junipero Sera. 

Its 70 chapels, dedicated to Mary, are by far the most impressive collection of religious art and expression I've ever seen, with an amazing international flavor. In 1792, John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the U.S., as Bishop of Baltimore, consecrated the U.S. as under the protection of the Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. This was formalized by Pope Pius IX in 1847. A list of the floor plan on the main floor is here. A list of the floor plan for the lower level and crypt church is here. By itself it is an education in mariology (the theological study of Mary) that is astounding and virgin territory for this non-Catholic. The National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore did not have anything even close to this type of display of chapels and variety and still leaves me scratching my head a bit as to how they are both national shrines. I frankly loved the Baltimore church and preferred it for many reasons over Washington, but Washington truly is a shrine to Mary, befitting a university setting dedicated to religion.