06 March 2018

MOO Month - Deli Treats for the MOOing

Well it is March, and that means it is MOO  month. I love MOO month - trying new MOOs to enhance our Cheapskates way of living without impacting our budget at all; just because we watch our spending and live within our means, doesn't mean we need to miss out on the finer things in life.

One of the things I love to MOO is smoked chicken, another is pastrami. Both are favourites with my family. We love either on sandwiches, on a foccacia, in pasta sauces, on pizzas and even on a tray with some olives, cheese, semi-dried tomatoes and veggies sticks.

Sadly, both are hard to find. Supermarket delis used to sell both (for a price, of course), but now only selected delis at the larger supermarkets stock pastrami - smoked chicken is almost impossible to find. If you have an independent deli nearby, you not only have a gourmet goldmine, but you have access to the most delicious deli items, including smoked chicken (in all forms) and good pastrami.

Of course, both these deli treats are simple to MOO, and you don't need a special smoker, although if you have one, or access to one, brilliant. A simple electric frying pan, a metal jar lid and a cake rack will do the job too.

MOO Smoked Chicken

I  buy chicken fillets on special, and pay no more than $6/per kilo, then brine them and smoke them. Smoked chicken, last time I priced it at the deli, was $22/kilo! It pays too MOO.

Here's how to smoke chicken, it's a pretty simple process:

1. Soak the chicken in a brine.
2. Smoke the chicken in a smoker.
3. Simmer the smoked chicken in stock.
4. Vacuum seal and freeze.

As I mentioned above, it helps to have a smoker but it's not strictly necessary. You can make a simple smoker using an electric frying pan or you can buy a simple contraption that goes on the barbecue.  I started with an old Sunbeam frypan I picked up on hard rubbish of all places, a couple of old Fowlers Vacola lids, an old cake cooler and a bag of wood chips from Bunnings.

1 kg chicken fillets, breast or thigh, skin off
1/2 cup salt
1.5 litres cold water
Wood chips - flavour of choice (I buy them from Bunnings or Anaconda or BCF - wherever they're cheapest)
3 litres chicken stock - MOO is tastiest but not essential, choose a good stock though, not stock cubes and water

Step 1. Make the brine. Stir the salt into the 1.5 litres of cold water until it has dissolved.

Step2. Put the chicken fillets in the brine. Make sure they are completely submerged. If they aren't be sure to turn them every 20 minutes. Let them sit in the brine for at least 2 hours, but no more than 24 hours, in the fridge.

Step 3. Prepare your smoker according to the instruction booklet.

Step 4. Take the chicken from the brine. Dry the fillets with a (clean) tea towel or dish cloth or paper towel if you use it.

Step 5. Put the chicken into the smoker and cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour at 105 degrees Celsius (around 225 Fahrenheit). Don't be tempted to lift the lid on the smoker, or open the barbecue - you'll just let all that delicious smoke out and your end result won't be quite as delicious. Just let the meat smoke away.

Step 6. Put the chicken into the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until cooked through. Cool in brine. Store in fridge for up to 7 days or freeze immediately.

This meat will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. I slice it, vacuum seal it (you can double wrap in clingfilm) and freeze in 100g packets. It keeps in the freezer for up to six months. An electric knife makes slicing so much easier if you have one.

MOO Pastrami

Pastrami was $18/kilo last time I priced it. I buy corned silverside for $5 - $7/kilo (the price varies through the year - I try to stock up when it is cheapest and freeze). Again, it pays to MOO.

1.5 - 2kg piece of corned beef - trimmed into two or three logs roughly the same size - don't trim the fat!

2 litres (8 cups) of water
200g coarse sea salt
100g sugar or honey
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp or so of pickling spices

1 small jar whole grain mustard
1 small packet coriander seeds
1 small packet black peppercorns
To smoke your meat, you’ll need a kettle-style barbecue or a kettle smoker or something of the like, plus wood chips.

Step 1. Brining. I use corned beef, which is already brined, but I do it again. It intensifies the flavours and makes the meat much more tender.  Put all of the brine ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it cool completely. Place your meat in a large bowl with a leak-proof seal or double zip-lock bags.  Pour the brine into the bow or bag, press out the air and seal. Store in fridge for 5 days, turning daily.

Step 2. After five days, drain take the meat out of the brine and pat dry. Crush the coriander and mustard seeds (I put them through the coffee grinder, you could use a mortar and pestle or a small food processor) roughly. Spread the mustard over the meat, covering all of it.  Take a sheet of greaseproof paper and spread the crushed spices over it. Roll the meat in the crushed spices, covering as much of it as you can. Press the crushed spices into the meat with your hands if necessary - just make sure they stick.

Step 3. Heat your smoker according to the instructions. Smoke your pastrami for 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 70 degrees Celsius. The important thing here is to keep the heat low and slowly bring it up to temperature, for a more tender pastrami.

Step 4.  Just before the pastrami is ready to come out of the smoker, pre-heat your oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Prepare a baking dish with a roasting rack by pouring in enough water to come up about 3cm.  When the pastrami has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker and place it on the rack in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil, you want the meat to steam.  Bake at 120 degrees for 3 hours. You might need to top the water up, I check every hour or so and top up if necessary.

Slice your pastrami thinly and enjoy hot (delicious with mash and steamed greens or on a roll with mustard and cheese) or cold.

This meat will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. I slice it, vacuum seal it (you can double wrap in clingfilm) and freeze in 100g packets. It keeps in the freezer for up to six months.

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