Fennel Frond “Caviar”

Non-fish flavored “caviar’s” have become very popular in the past few years and I have been experimenting and reading non-stop to find recipes and techniques that I like when creating these little spheres of flavor. The technical term for making these caviar’s is called spherification.  After a little practice you can flawlessly make perfect little spheres of any flavor you desire.

Some of the equipment that you will need can be found by following the links.

Plastic Syringe

96 cavity pipette (only needed when producing a large number)


Strainer, or spoon with small holes

Blender, Hand blender

Fennel Frond Caviar

Fennel Frond Puree

4.5oz Parsley(Cleaned)

2oz Fennel Fronds(Cleaned)


AN Water

1t Baking Soda


4.5C Water

2t Fennel Pollen

Fennel Frond Caviar

1.5C Fennel Frond Puree (From Above)

2.5G or ~1.25t Sodium Alginate


2C Water

2G Calcium Chloride

  • Start by placing water and baking soda in a pot and bring to a simmer
  • While the water heats clean the fronds and the leaves off their stems and put them in a pile

Fennel Fronds are the little green hairy things above the bulb of fennel.

  • Prepare an ice bath
  • Put the greens in the simmering water for 30 seconds
  • Remove the greens and shock them in the ice bath, leave until cooled
  • Place the greens, fennel pollen, and water in a high-speed blender and puree until smooth

  • Strain and measure your liquid, pour what you need back into the blender and reserve the remaining puree for later. Turn the blender on and add the alginate, once blended, pour your base into a container and store in the fridge for 12-24 hours. This will allow air bubbles to float to the top and pop, alternatively if you have a vacuum chamber or food saver you can put the puree into a bag and seal it, this will remove the air instantly.

Let the puree sit under refrigeration for 12 hours to remove air bubbles.

  • Combine calcium chloride and water, blend until the calcium has dissolved, this is the setting bath.

~~The consistency of the puree should now be like a loose gel. Depending on the viscosity of your puree from the start this may change. If using straight water, this may be a very good ratio, if you have a higher viscosity puree you may want to reduce the alginate a little. Whatever the consistency is, it is what your final product will feel like when eating it.

  • I have used the 96 cavity pipette to produce large amounts of these caviar’s, you may omit it and just use the syringe if you like.

96 cavity pipette with syringe

  • Prepare three containers, one with the calcium chloride bath, one that’s empty with cheesecloth over the top, make sure to secure it with tape, and one with clean water.

Left to Right: Clean water, cheesecloth covered bin, calcium bath.

  • Once your solution has clarified, pour it into the plastic tray that comes with the 96 pipette, or fill your syringe. The pictures below will demonstrate how the pipette system works.

Plastic tray filled with the fennel frond puree.

To fill the 96 cavity pipette, place it on top of the plastic tray, back the syringe out a 1/4″ then attach it to the hose coming from the pipette. Pull back on the plunger until the 96 cavities in the pipette are full.

  • I use a towel to wipe of any extra puree on the dropper before setting them. Place the cavity over the calcium chloride bath and depress the plunger. Let the spheres “cook” for 30-45 seconds. Pour the solution and the spheres onto the cheesecloth, then spoon the spheres off of the cheesecloth and into the clean water bath.

My spheres floated because I did not allow enough time for the air bubbles to come to the top of my original solution

Finished “caviar” spheres.

  • Once the spheres have been rinsed, store them in the extra puree (that does not have the alginate); this will help them maintain their flavor and color.  They are best when used immediately after rinsing in the clean water.

Harissa Pickles

Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili paste that is used in a lot of foods from stews to vegetable dishes. The one that I chose for this recipe has rose hips added to it which add a nice floral note and it helps enhance the pepper flavor quite a bit (Rose Harissa), this is not the exact product that I used but it is still a very good product.

I have enjoined pickles so much more since I have been making them from scratch, I have made fermented pickles and vinegar based pickles, both are very good when done properly. This recipe will demonstrate a vinegar type pickle and I am going to use English cucumbers. These cucumbers add a nice cooling effect to the hot chilies in the harissa, and with the addition of palm sugar, you get a nice fruity sweetness.

2ea English cucumbers


1/2C Harissa

2C Rice Vinegar

2T Palm Sugar

1C Water

Pinch Salt

  • Start by rinsing the cucumbers and removing both ends. Cut the cucumber in thirds so you have three cylinders.
  • Using a mandolin with the thin julienne attachment, carefully run the cucumbers through the blades, lengthwise, until you have thin, and long slices of cucumbers. Run the cucumber through until you get to the seeds and rotate the cucumber a quarter turn and repeat until you have sliced all four sides. You can also just slice the cucumbers thin, in discs, which will give you the seeds as well
  • Combine the remaining ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile place the cucumbers in a jar to fit them all and the liquid.

Julienne cucumbers and harisaa marinade.

  • Once the mixture has come to a simmer, pour it over the cucumbers and cover with plastic. refrigerate overnight.

Cucumbers pickling in warm marinade.

  • The pickles will be ready after 24 hours but will improve over the next few days.

I served these pickles with a warm charcuterie board that has homemade sausages and confit duck.

The acidity level was about 4.0, so these are ready for canning!

Duck Prosciutto

As much as I love prosciutto, it can be a very expensive investment and once it has taken its sweet time to cure and age it should be eaten quickly, although it can be portioned and placed in the freezer to make it last longer. Since I am only making prosciutto for myself I decided to use duck breasts, they are easier to work with when beginning to cure meat and it will fit in my larder better than a full pig leg. The technique that I am about to show you came from a butcher in Portland, OR, that I learned to cure meat from by the name of Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie.

For my first run of duck prosciutto I am going to use Peking duck breasts, as they are more common and cheaper. They have a decent amount of fat on the breasts and a pretty neutral duck flavor, since they are farmed and not wild. The trick to a good prosciutto is to cure and age the meat encased in fat/skin to prevent the flesh from spoiling and drying out. To ensure that the meat is fully encased in fat I am going to sew two duck breasts together by the skin. Doing this will give me a larger portion of meat to serve as well as the fat, which will absorb the flavors of the cure. I created two samples and the duck breast that was sewn together will be the first, for the second, I decided to take a different approach. I recently picked up a small amount of “Meat Glue”, or Transglutaminase/Activa (not to be confused with Activia®) from to play and experiment with. For those that do not know what this product is you can read about it here. Instead of sewing the breast together, I “glued” them together, and after 24 hours of setting time for the glue to activate, I had conjoined duck breasts that were ready for curing.

(Franken) Duck Prosciutto

4ea Duck Breasts

1ea Leather needle

~6′ Butcher twine

2ea Pinches of Pink Salt

  • Start by laying the flesh side of the two duck breasts together to determine whether the fat will be able to encase the meat. If it doesn’t, do not worry, you will just need a little warm duck fat later to rub onto the flesh. Sprinkle a pinch of pink salt onto the flesh side of each duck breast and begin to sew them together.

I tied a loop with a knot in one end that will hold the twine in place and allow me to hang the duck after it has cured.

  • I made my needle out of a wooden skewer. Begin sewing the breast together, only penetrating and sewing the fat together all the way around the duck breasts.

And to think that the home economics classes I took in middle school would finally pay off.

  • Once sewn together, check for any parts of flesh that might be exposed, if there are any just mix a little bit of warm duck fat with ground black pepper and rub it onto those areas.

The Cure (Recipe adapted from Eric Finley, Chop, Butchery & Charcuterie)

3/4C Salt

1/4C Sugar

1.5T Juniper Berries

1T Fresh Garlic

1T Whole Black Peppercorns

2ea Bay Leaves

1ea Sewn Duck Breast

  • Combine dry spices and pulse in a food processor.
  • In a bowl combine all ingredients, except duck and mix well.
  • Toss the duck in the cure, lay a handful of the cure onto a sheet of plastic wrap.
  • Place the duck on top followed by another handful of cure.
  • Wrap the duck and the cure tightly in the plastic to ensure that the breasts are completely covered in cure.

  • Label, date, and apply about 10# of weight on top of the duck breast, the weight will help it cure faster.  Place in the fridge and cure for seven days.


  • Remove the duck from the plastic, reserving the cure, and check for firmness, it should be uniform.
  • If it is still soft in some spots, which mine was, then re-apply the cure, mine will take another three to four days.

Re-applying the cure to my duck breasts and wrapping and storing for 3-4 more days.


  • Once the duck has finished curing it should feel firm.  For the one sample that I used meat glue on I did not apply any weight, and it was not entirely firm but it ended up more round than the one that was weighted, which turned out flat.
  • I brushed off the cure and hung both prosciutto’s in the larder. I wrapped one with cheesecloth and left the other unwrapped.

Wrapped prosciutto.

Weighted prosciutto

  • These will age anywhere from one month to three.


The duck prosciutto is finally finished and I couldn’t be happier, well unhappy with one and very happy with the other. Final results:

  • The meat glued and un-pressed duck breast was unsuccessful, not because of the meat glue but because the breast where so thick it took too long for it to lose moisture being encased in fat. In the future I think this one would work better if I cured it longer, it was not quite firm enough and I should have left it in the cure for another week.
  • The sewn duck breasts, that were also weighted, turned out very well. The meat was encased in a very flavorful fatty skin. There isn’t much more to say about it except, Wow! Next time I will look at using Muscovy duck breasts as they are almost three times the size.

Duck prosciutto!

Crispy Polenta

Polenta is right behind risotto on my list of favorite starches, and as requested here is the recipe for the crispy polenta that we serve at the Lodge restaurant, not only as a side but as a starch on our broccolini salad. Polenta is a coarsely ground, sometimes finely ground, cornmeal that is cooked in a stock to create a porridge type dish. It has been around since the Roman times and before corn was introduced it was made from faro, spelt, chickpeas, and other starchy flours. The leftover porridge is often poured into a pan and served the next day grilled or fried.

In this recipe we use a coarse ground cornmeal that is labeled as “Polenta”, the coarser the cornmeal the longer the cooking time. I prefer to use coarse cornmeal because of the texture but as stated above you can use almost any starchy flour.




A low sided and wide pot, rondo

2 pans to pour the polenta into, 9″ squares pan works well. One pan will hold the polenta and the other will act as the weight on top.

Fryer, Oil set to 350°

Small mixing bowl

Polenta For Frying

2C Cream

2C Chicken Stock


1.5C Coarse Cornmeal


4oz Ricotta Cheese

1T Chopped Herbs (Thyme, Parsley, Oregano)

2oz Butter, cold and cubed

TT Salt and Pepper


AN Cornstarch

  • Begin by getting all of your ingredients scaled out, then combine your cream and chicken stock in a pot and place on high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste at this point.20120708-012725.jpg20120708-012735.jpg
  • Once the liquids boil, whisk in the cornmeal, immediately turn the heat down to low.20120708-012742.jpg
  • Continue to whisk until the porridge has thicken, be careful at this point as the pockets of steam will create little volcanoes that can sometimes shoot searing hot polenta at you.20120708-012748.jpg20120708-012752.jpg
  • Once thick, remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients.
  • Continue to whisk until the butter has melted. The use cold butter allows the butter to stay emulsified, therefore it will not separate unless over heated, same theory applies when making a butter sauce or mashed potatoes.
  • 20120708-012758.jpg
  • Check for seasoning.
  • Pour the polenta into your baking pan and let cool for ten minutes, no need to grease the pan, between the cream and the butter, the polenta will pop right out once cooled.20120708-012803.jpg
  • Place a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper ontop, followed by the second baking pan, pour a little water into the top pan to add some weight. The weight will make the product more dense for the purpose of frying.


  • Place the polenta in the fridge and allow to cool overnight.
  • Once cooled remove the top baking pan and flip the polenta out on a cutting board.
  • Using a wet knife, cut the polenta into the desired shape.
  • Toss the polenta in cornstarch, the cornstarch fills in all the little gaps and protects the polenta from falling apart in the fryer.20120712-174555.jpg
  • Fry the polenta until golden brown and enjoy!

Lomo de Cerdo

Whichever way you want to call it, lonzo or lomo has a great background.  Lonzo is from Italy and lomo is from Spain.  There is even a version from Greece that uses red wine in the cure and is referred to as lountza. This is another great piece of charcuterie history! Lomo can be and mean many things; in Spanish it means loin, traditional lomo would be beef tenderloin, and lomo de credo translates to loin of pork. Most of the lomo that I have had has been the tenderloin of pork so that is where I will begin.

This piece of cured muscle is a great way to start curing at home, the cut is small and not terribly expensive. The spices that are used are very aromatic and distinct, you should be able to pick out every spice that you put into it. The curing time is relatively short as is the hang time compared to the curing time of a whole loin because of its size.

For my lomo I am using Carlton Farms, based out of Carlton, Oregon, because they are a local and reliable source for great pork.

The Pork

~2.50# Cleaned Pork Tenderloin

The Cure

1.05oz sugar

.21oz pink salt

.07oz toasted pink peppercorns

.21oz toasted fennel seeds

.21oz toasted coriander

.84oz Kosher salt

.14oz sweet smoked paprika

2ea cloves chopped garlic

.07oz thyme leaves

.07oz cayenne pepper

.14oz Espelette

.14oz Fennel Pollen

  • Combine all of the ingredients for the cure.

  • Dry the pork with some paper towels and roll them in the cure.
  • Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and sprinkle with 1/4 of the remaining cure, place pork on top and add 1/4 more of the cure.

  • Roll the plastic around the pork tightly and place the loins in the fridge for 4 days, some recipes have said 1-2 weeks but that is for a loin of pork which is twice as thick. I went with the same curing time as my bacon to ensure that it does not get over cured. Check the pork daily and flip it over on its other side, when done the tenderloin should feel firmer than in raw form.

  • After your curing time is up, unwrap the pork and rinse under cool water to remove excess cure, and pat try with paper towels. Wrap the tenderloin in cheesecloth and hang until it has lost 30% of its weight. I am estimating it to be close to three weeks, again I have a chart that I will record the weight of the product every week to track when it is done.

Hanging lomo