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Smokehaus Guide to Thanksgiving

Maybe you’re the person who effortlessly hosts dozens of guests without a shred of anxiety. If you are this unicorn, this isn’t for you. Also, I resent  you a little. This is for the folks simultaneously creating Pinterest boards, flipping through Bon Appétit, and watching the Food Network.

Now, I am that person psychotically researching to prep for turkey day – but let me explain why. My home is 600 square feet (my husband and I used to live in an actual tiny house, so we call this our “big” house), my oven is tiny, my refrigerator is tiny, my dog will be distracting me the entire time I’m cooking and he is NOT tiny, and for the first time in my life … I’m hosting Thanksgiving for my family. EEK.

But! There is hope. I don’t actually know if you can win Thanksgiving, but dammit I’m going to win.  Follow my tips below to avoid the meltdown on game day (I’m talking about cooking … not #sports).

The Turkey:

My teeny tiny oven can’t handle the full bird (and to be honest the thought of attempting to perfectly cook a 10 lb turkey terrifies me). I ain’t taking any chances so I got myself a couple turkey breasts from my favorite Smokehaus (ours – duh).  Here’s a link so you can get your very own beautiful bird.

Smoked Turkey Breast

Bonus! We will be offering a FREE 8oz Crayo for those purchasing their Mail Order turkey breast November 1-19th. Stay tuned! “What is Crayo?” you ask? A beautiful marriage of mayo, dried cranberries, walnuts, and garlic, blended to creamy perfection. It’s what you need for the day after Thanksgiving for leftover turkey sandwiches.

Crayo

Dessert:
I don’t (can’t) bake. I love intuitively cooking and measuring ain’t really my thing. Aka … if you’ve ever eaten anything I’ve baked – I’m sorry. You were kind to lie to me and tell me that it was good but I know the truth. Some of you will also lie to me after you read this and personally tell me that I’m a capable baker. And you’re still a liar.

I plan on purchasing (or maybe even begging  a guest to do it) store bought pies. And I don’t even feel bad about it, and neither should you if baking isn’t your jam.  BUT! I know the perfect way to add a homemade touch – whipped cream! It’s a crowd pleaser and dead simple to make with your stand mixer. Here’s what you’ll need :

-1 cup heavy whipping cream (this is NOT the time for low fat health nut junk, trust me)
-1 cup confectioners sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract (pro tip, make your own! Vodka + vanilla beans + time = vanilla extract doesn’t cost 7 million dollars an ounce)

If you can, stick the mixer bowl and whisk in the freezer for a bit to cool them down. Just beat the cream until stiff peaks are about to form. Beat in the vanilla and sugar until peaks actually form. Try not to over-beat, as the cream will get butter-like and lumpy. Make the whipped cream a day or two before and store in the refrigerator. And … make more than you think since you have no self control and will eat half of it right out of the bowl. Or maybe you’re better than me. Stop bragging.

Entertaining the guests while you finish cooking:
Here’s the dilemma – you’re trying to finish up the last bits of cooking and your guests arrive. You’re torn between saying hi/chatting with your loved ones and finishing your masterpiece in the kitchen. Your guests sense this … and these beautiful morons whom you love (who have NO boundaries or sense of personal space) come into the kitchen, stand in your way, and small talk you to the point of insanity. Mother, I love you.

I’ve devised a genius plan that is kind to your guests and keeps their smiling selves out of your freaking way  Each year I decorate my home with garlands of cranberries around the Holidays. It’s a fun, eco friendly way to add some jazz to your house for the holidays. All you’ll need is a few pounds of cranberries (check your local health food store to see if you can buy them in bulk), thread, and sewing needles.

Set the table with the ingredients each guest will need to make the garlands in a cute lil paper bag (plastic is for tossers) and set them to work. When dinner is ready, recruit the most eager helper (hi mom!) to gather the garlands and set them aside. Then you roll up to the table with all the peacefully executed food and your peeps are already sitting down  (yay for not having to wrangle them). They all say “WOW!” “We were so busy loving our activity that we forgot you were even cooking!” “This is great all over again!” “You’re the best!” Maybe that doesn’t happen, but maybe it does. Either way, you’ve made tasty food and kept your guests happy.

They feel like they’re helping (and they are helping), they’re making decorations for you, they’re out of the way, and everyone is happy. They can even make their own to take home!

Bonus: this encourages community while giving those who are a little more shy something to do with their hands to take the social pressure off.

World peace, one cranberry garland at a time.

^^Actual cranberry garland in my actual house because I am an actual human who is telling you the actual truth. 🙂

And my final tip: say yes to whoever offers to do the dishes. Sit back, sip a glass of wine, gaze lovingly at your fabulous guests, and smile knowing that you are the greatest f****ing host that ever existed. 🙂

 

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“5” Things

Welcome back. We’re gathered here to address some things. There are more than five this week, since I realized halfway into a drive to Chicago that I hadn’t yet drafted the 5 Things™ post last Friday.

  1. Fall hours! For those who have not yet stopped in for a late-evening sandwich to be met with closed doors, we have moved to our Winter hours: 10am-8pm Monday through Saturday, still 10am-6pm Sunday.
  2. Our “library” is up and running! What is more important: Knowledge or Imagination? I don’t have a conclusive answer, but here at Northern Waters Smokehaus we be
    lieve in a combination of both. Our recipes and business practices are rooted in tradition, but cultivated by that special something that only we, as individuals, can bring to the table. I’m supposed to be talking about a bookshelf here. Bookshelves are exciting enough, easy enough to understand their purpose, but the worlds they can contain are infinite and wonderful and complicated and complex. I think, in a way, that Northern Waters Smokehaus is like a well-stocked bookcase. I’m losing track of this metaphor. Here are some photographs.

  3. Coach visited us! John, aka Coach, a gosh-darn Smokehaus legend, came into town for a friend’s wedding, and we had the joy of serving him and his our Hot Pastrami special. In addition to years of dedicated service and top-notch joking, Coach was also an early tester of our mail order Sandwich Kit initiative after his time at NWS. Thanks for being you, Coach.
  4. We placed an order for 3,000 boxes! Mail Order season is a wild world, and it is almost upon us. To the uninitiated, three thousand boxes likely sounds like a lot. It turns out, the uninitiated are absolutely correct, as it doesn’t take a genius to recognize the masochism to which we subject ourselves each winter. Our boxes come from All Boxes Direct, and are additionally packaged with recycled denim insulation (we add a Jean Jacket to every order).
  5. The Hygge Collection is available! I took a semester of Norwegian in college, but I still struggle with the pronunciation of this word. Fortunately, I’m a pretty good Googler, so I found out the word is Danish and denotes a sense of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of contentment and well-being. This collaborative Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace picnic basket—featuring products from NWS, Hepzibah’s Sweet Shoppe, Blue Heron Trading Company, and Amazing Grace Bakery & Café—might bring a little hygge to you or someone you hold dear.
  6. We’re getting another slicer! It’s no secret that a huge part of our business’s success is our mail order market, but we’re not just slinging whole hams, porkettas, and turkey breasts. Previously, a good portion of the M.O. department’s days would be spent on one or both of the slicers downstairs, but now they will never have to leave the comfort of their very hygge office—even to slice their meats.
  7. The afternoons & evenings have slowed down (temporarily)! Obviously we’re grateful that our business experiences a bunch of endlessly busy days, but from time to time it is enjoyable for those of us on the ground floor to have some shifts to unwind, mess around and convince the restaurant across the hall to deep fry a couple of maple sage turkey & cottage bacon Monte Cristos, tell stories, share favorite music, and give curious customers a little extra attention. It might surprise you, but many humans seek personal enrichment and rewarding experiences, even on the clock. Smokehausers are artists, intellectuals, parents, activists, comedians, scientists, and just genuinely good people, and during the slow season, we have the opportunity to cultivate our own personalities within the context of our workplace.
  8. Sandwich Lab is coming up soon! I’ll write more about this in a future post, but plans are already being laid and sandwich experiments are being refined for our new tradition, the Sandwich Lab, in which we re-learn and re-analyze our techniques, pitch and vote on new potential menu items, and eat a lot of food, and which will be held this year on November 6th. We’ll be closing the shop a little early that day, so we have some space to innovate.

That’s all for this week. I hope none of you lost sleep last week over the missed post. I had sustained no debilitating injuries that kept me from writing, just a bunch of gigs in a row that distracted my simple mind. I’m 99.9% sure I’ll be back here with more Things™ next week, same-ish time.

Oh, and about that Monte Cristo: We made it on our haus-made white bread with swiss and cheddar cheese, and they covered it with French toast batter and graham cracker crumbles before they fried it. We enjoyed it, at their request, with our crayo. The marketing meeting notes inform me our delicious crayo—delicious is an understatement, by the way—will be part of an upcoming mail-order special, so stay tuned for more updates about that.

And finally, Happy Halloweekend, ya ghouls!

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In Remembrance of 5 Things Past; or, Searching for Lost Things

Happy Friday, everyone (and Happy Birthday, Eric Goerdt!), though I’m writing this on a Wednesday, since tomorrow/yesterday is/was my birthday, and I’m really trying to take some time for myself, for once.

Mother Superior is angry.

I’m here, in the past of your current present, at Amazing Grace Bakery and Café, at 7am, sipping on dark roasted coffee, slowly picking apart a chocolate espresso muffin which we’ll call my birthday cake (I don’t particularly enjoy cake–hold your pitchforks, please! Preferences are allowed), watching a red-tailed black shark bully or maybe just play tag with the rest of the aquarium; and you’re existing sometime in my new future, reading this blog post, thinking where is Ned going with this, is this setting of the scene really necessary for a blog post about five things that happened this week at Northern Waters Smokehaus; though you might have had a realization like I have, on occasion, that often some of these five things of which I write happened on another week, or are happening over a span of time that includes previous weeks, this selfsame moment, and will continue on into the future weeks, and furthermore that reading a piece of written language often involves a detachment of oneself from the standard temporal flow in which we have entrenched ourselves; and that, in reality, every week we have found ourselves in this wibbly-wobbly, time-wimey ebb-and-flow of thoughts expressed and received.

(I realize in this moment, after having written that sentence, that I must go back and change a number of those commas to semicolons.)

Folks, it’s my birthday week, so I’m not holding back. You’re going to get the trains of thought that I normally reserve for the quiet aloneness of floating downward from the waking world into the valley of dreams—yes, for me, it’s a valley; and last night there was a robin hatchling for whom I tried and failed to find some seed, dice that I mistook for my own that belonged to my very disappointed therapist, and thousands of resplendently beautiful and terrifying spiders in that valley—and in some ways, you already have.

What was I going on about? Oh, yes—
Here are the five things we came up with to share with you. Hopefully nothing too noteworthy or exciting has happened, because it is out of my hands.

  1. Birthdays! October is a birthday-heavy month for us. I’m sure to miss one, in addition to me and Eric, we also have Nic, Jeremy, and Jacob finishing their lap around the Sun this month. What else is there to say? A birthday is really just like any other day, except certain people might treat you a little differently if you’re friends on electronic social media and they happen to notice your name next to a birthday cake icon. For a fun time, try wishing everyone you encounter at the Smokehaus this month a happy belated birthday. You can wish someone a belated happy birthday all but one day of the year and be right on the money. Them’s good odds.
  2. We’re going to The Wedding Fair! This year, we have refocused no insignificant sum of our energy into the catering side of our business. From weddings upon weddings, to the Glensheen gala, to Best of the Wurst, and so many pop-ups—not to mention (but hey, here I am mentioning it) our 20th Anniversary Party—we have had a heck of a year outside the charming confines of our deli storefront. The Wedding Fair, this Sunday (October 14th) at the Minneapolis Convention Center, is an exciting opportunity for us, since it will put us face-to-face with a large audience that potentially isn’t already following our business, and perhaps has never heard of us. We’re bringing a modest sampling of what we can offer—ham and pimiento bites, salmon and scallion cream cheese bites, a sweet brochure whipped up by our design team—and preparing ourselves to discuss virtually anything anybody wants to talk about (related to our food and catering services). Those who have experienced events we’ve catered know that our culinary skills extend far beyond what we offer in the deli.
  3. We got a new power outlet! Another installment in the Series of Capital Improvements. We needed more power, and we got it. Bonus Thing™: We’ve cleared out the design/mail order office in preparation for what I believe is our final reflooring of the capital improvements season. Perhaps whomever I can convince to edit this post post-reflooring will supply a photo of the new floor, and if they don’t, this is a fun and awkward sentence for you to have read.

    Check out that new outlet on the left!
  4. We smoked chickens! This past weekend, we catered Hoops Brewing’s Okoberfest celebration, and as Eric just informed me is traditional for Oktoberfest, we served smoked chicken alongside our brats and sauerkraut. If you’re bummed that you missed out on this opportunity, don’t worry: The chicken was evidently so good that we’re working to bring it onto our menu in the near future, as a half-chicken basket special for two.
  5. Hummus! Our prep team made eight quarts of smoked poblano and ancho hummus, just to see how it would turn out. We had an extensive tasting session at our weekly Dungeons & Dragons gathering, and I can say that the hummus turned out quite well. It has a very gentle bite and rich, smoky undertones, and pairs extremely well with fragments of hot naan, and a cold pilsner lager. There is still some room for perfecting the recipe, but soon enough it will be available from our grab-and-go case and might make its way onto our sandwich line—perhaps as a vegan substitute for the cream cheese on our Fuzzy Bunny sandwich.

That’s all for this week. This has been a wild Wednesday, which you’re reading about on Friday, with high-speed winds, a murderous Lake Superior battering the shore and flooding large segments of our basement and forcing our delivery/prep department home, and somehow still a steady stream of customers—who must love to suffer in the cold wetness of it all—gracing our shop with their presence. I’ll catch you, dear reader, next week as I pull a similar write-early-in-the-week-so-I-can-take-Friday-off stunt. Hopefully—and totally within my control—with fewer trips through my self-created wormhole, because I have re-read this piece a dozen times, and am still not sure where or when I have ended up.

#imaginecanalparkunderwater
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5 Things™ First Week of October Edition

October is here. It’s my favorite month of the year. Despite the gloomy forecasts every day so far, I’m still pleasantly surprised by the gradual slowing-down of life, the turning of the trees, and the shifting priorities around the Smokehaus. And on top of all that, our company D&D cohort is back on track to the primary campaign, and had an excitement-laden October 1st session that leveled us up. I’ll leave the details up to your imagination, but thanks to a dragonborn paladin, an Aussie-accented dwarf bard, a tabaxi arcane archer, and an efreet trapped in the physical form of an iron golem who lives to serve those who know his true name (and as such, ended up doing a lot of damage for both sides), the fire giant nation is less a king and queen, and Faerun is a little bit safer. Now, on to the five things that I came here to write—

  1. We have yet another new floor! This is becoming a bit of a theme, isn’t it. While it seems like our business has no ceilings, we have plenty of floors, and we’re trying to remove the carpet from all of them, to further increase our workable, food-safe areas. This has led to a lot of comically-placed desks, and really more heavy-lifting than any of us signed on for. All’s well that ends well, however, and the floors are turning out beautifully. Enjoy some smartphone photographs.
  2. Our party and afterparty were a blast! Truth be told, I’m a bit socially anxious, so I didn’t last long at the party, but from the moment the party officially began, there was a line wrapped around Hoops Brewing to cash in on our panoply of free food. About forty-five minutes in, Eric had to run over to the Smokehaus to re-up the All Season Fillet stock. A few unsuspecting Hoops patrons were even overheard saying, “we should really hire them to cater [our upcoming event].” Everybody won, it seems. The afterparty, which featured several Smokehaus-affiliated bands, was also a blast. Folks bought a grip of raffle tickets for Together for Youth, and good times were had by all.
  3. We attended the Minnesota Hospitality Expo! Ever seeking to be more hospitable to our awesome customers (and coworkers), we sent a battalion of desk-jockeys*, owners, and managers to the Minnesota Hospitality Expo. Ari Weinzweig, co-owner and founding partner of the legendary Zingerman’s, was the keynote speaker, and I know Eric and the others have taken a lot of inspiration from the ethos of that business. If I had been there myself, I could perhaps tell you more about their experience and lessons learned, but suffice it to say that you can expect a lot of it to be put into practice in our own business. Stop by (or continue to stop by) in the next few months to enjoy an extra-specially hospitable Northern Waters Smokehaus.
    *(See: awesome H.R. legend, Greg, and design aficionado, Flo.)
  4. Eric made prepped chorizo with Nick! For the first time in a long, undisclosed amount of time, Eric rolled up his sleeves for the task of Spanish-style Chorizo prep with smoker Nick. While photographing part of the process, I was able to glean some terse, very Eric-style lessons about our history, the tricks of the trade for cultivating various wursts and salumi, and what processes we use to give ourselves an edge over your standard mass-produced meat products. Eric is a gem and a true expert of his craft, and alongside Nick’s skilled hands, they made quick work of processing the chorizo. That reminds me: Do you know why the scarecrow became world-renowned? Because it was outstanding in its field.
  5. Our offices are forever evolving! I know, I know! I have already mentioned the floors being redone, but more importantly, I want you to know about the new jungle corner that has taken hold of our marketing and design office. These plants came from our patio, but the encroaching cold weather had made them very sad. We took them inside, and put them by a window, and now they are alive and well and doing their part to purify our air. Thanks, plants!
    Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Rihanna

Thanks for tuning in. Have a great week, or if you never return to the 5 Things™ blog, a great life.

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One ham meatball, many options

 

Baby, do I love ham! But let’s say that you cooked a ham for a special occasion and had A LOT of it left over.  Ham is great (pro tip: it also freezes really well), but if your ham leftover contingency arsenal consists solely of ham sandwiches… you’re going to become incredibly tired of ham sandwiches. One delicious option that it seems hardly anyone knows about for ham is making it into a meatball! You can use basically any old meatball recipe that you like and just substitute ham for part or all of the ground meat. The sauce recipes are also just guidelines, so add or subtract things as your taste dictates. What follows here is a basic ham meatball recipe that can be served in any style that you deem solid. I’ve given you the recipes for a Swedish gravy or a sweet n sour sauce , but I am positive that these meatballs would also land favorably in a soup, skewered up with peppers on the grill, in a stir fry or as a topping on a pizza. As with any meatball, I recommend making a whole bunch of them at once if you have the ingredients and freezing the excess balls raw, which will make for quick and easy meals in the future.

 

For the meatballs:

½ lb ground beef (or any ground meat)
½ lb Northern Waters Smokehaus Berkshire ham,  ground up in a food processor or meat grinder
1 large egg
1 slice of white bread, crust removed
¼ C milk
½ cup onion, minced
4 T olive oil or any neutral oil ( I recommend using 4 T butter for the Swedish version)

Place the milk and the slice of bread in a small saucepan. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer until it is absorbed by the slice of bread (a couple of minutes). Using a fork, shred up the bread and milk, then place it in a mixing bowl. Add the onion and the egg to the bread, mixing it into a loose paste. Add the ground meat and ground ham last, mixing it by hand until just combined (try to gently incorporate all ingredients until they are just holding together enough to form your meatballs). The meatballs can be as large or as small as you would like. Once the meatballs are formed, bring a large skillet to medium heat with the oil or butter in it, and brown your meatballs on all sides. At this point, you can continue cooking them until they are cooked through, or finish them in whatever sauce you are serving them in.  Either way, once the meatballs are ready to come out of the pan, drain them first on a paper towel, paper bag, or on a rack. Do not completely clean out your pan- you may need it to make your sauce in! Makes 4-6 main course servings.



For sweet and sour sauce:
1 ½ C water
¼ C distilled white vinegar
¼ cup ketchup
3 T cornstarch (you can substitute all purpose flour)
3 T soy sauce
(Optional) diced pineapple, peppers

Scallions to garnish

Whisk the water, vinegar, ketchup, cornstarch, soy sauce and optional vegetables together and add to a large sauce pan (you can do this in the same pan you cooked your meatballs in but be sure to drain off any excess oil). Bring the sauce to a simmer for 3 minutes or so. Add meatballs to the sauce and simmer until cooked through.
Serve as a stand-alone appetizer, over rice, or lo mein noodles. Garnish with chopped scallions or chives.

For Swedish gravy:
4 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups beef broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ t nutmeg
½ t garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

In the pan you cooked your meatballs in, add 4 T of butter and bring to a medium heat until foamy. Try to use the butter heating time to scrape the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan with a spatula or fork. Slowly incorporate flour, whisking until it turns a light brown color. Slowly whisk in broth and heavy cream. Whisk in Worchestershire, Dijon mustard, nutmeg and garlic powder. Bring to a simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add your meatballs and heat until cooked through. Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley.