The May Charcutepalooza Challenge- Grinding

Merguez or chorizo, merguez or chorizo…hmmm. How ’bout both?

This month, for the May Charcutepalooza challenge, we grind. The wonderful, balanced combination of meat and fat. Merguez, a North African inspired yet French influenced lamb sausage rich with red wine and roasted red peppers. Chorizo, of the Mexican variety and not Spanish, smoky and flavorful with Ancho chiles. With two wonderful things to choose from, we ended up making both. The Merguez was frozen (not before we sampled a bit- wonderful!) and will be cased later.

With the chorizo, we made simple tacos topped with an avocado-tomatillo salsa and home made 7 month old cheddar. A squeeze of lime, the pop of cilantro, these tacos were proof that great food doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple meal of hand made ingredients shared with friends is a great thing.

A Southern Drawl.

Drool is more like it. After smoking Tasso Ham and Andouille Sausage, we went for gold and made Gumbo. A rich, earthy, soulful blend of smoked meats, rich stock, vegetables and dark earthy roux.

Overnight, the stock steeped. Chicken bones, duck bones, and ham hock stewed. In the morning the whole house smelled of rich broth. Just in case that wasn’t enough, the addition of veal stock ensured this ain’t no diet gumbo. This is the real deal, folks. Tasso ham, Andouille sausage and Chicken gumbo, rich with the stock and a dark smoky roux, served on top of dirty rice with a hunk of home made french bread. I could eat it again and again.

I will mop up the remnants. I will lick the bowl clean.

Hot Smoking: The April Charcutepalooza Challenge

This month, the Charcutepalooza challenge was hot smoking. A neurotic overachiever through and through, I opted to make the Tasso ham, and to also case and smoke Andouille sausage. 10 pounds of pork shoulder and seasoning, several bottles of wine, many long nights of cooking after 8 hour shifts in a kitchen, a lover as dedicated to food as me, and the sweet, spicy, smoky results are amazing. We smoked them both with hickory chips in a small Weber grill. The Tasso is a bit more cooked than we had hoped, but it still tastes great. The Andouille turned out damn near perfect. I give you Tasso Ham and Andouille sausage, our very own Southern-style goodness in the Pacific Northwest.

Duck, duck…duck!

As a child in grade school, I sat on the playground in circles with folks my own young age and waited, with eager anticipation, to be the chosen one. One after the next, they called it out. Duck! Duck! Duck! Duck!

Even at this fare early age when we wanted so badly to fit in, we each secretly wanted to be the unique “Goose!”, to be the one who was picked out of the circle, called something special. I even have some midwest friends of mine that insist that as children they played “duck- duck- grey duck” and not “duck- duck- goose”. I know, I think it’s weird as well. Yet the principle remains the same.

However, all games aside, this dinner set a new precedent. Exit childhood whimsy, of running in circles. No playground fancy could prepare one for the DUCK WELLINGTON.

An overindulgent feast of fowl, the duck wellington is a true thing of beauty. Layers of duck liver terrine, duck confit, and seared duck breast wrapped in puff pastry. Hours to make, minutes to enjoy sopped in sweet satiation. Step aside, geese and grey ducks. This game is for serious contenders only. I am pretty sure I’d chase someone in circles for more.

Duck Wellington

Where there’s Smoke…there’s Fire.

The April Charcutepalooza challenge: Hot Smoking. Canadian bacon, or Tasso ham?

Tasso ham it is! As of right now, 5 pounds of pork shoulder are sitting in dry cure. Tonight, they will be rinsed and seasoned, and tomorrow they will be smoked. In addition to the Tasso, more pork is cubed and ready to be turned into spicy, smoked Andouille sausage. Tuesday is gonna be a hot one…

And here it is, a balmy 40-something-degree April evening in Seattle…Tasso ham smoking outside on the grill, Andouille sausage ground and ready to be cased. The Andouille will sit overnight to develop its pellicle, and it will be smoked tomorrow night. It’s not yet hot, sticky or humid here in the Pacific Northwest, but it sure smells like Cajun country.

Corned Beef!

The corned beef brisket and tongue are ready!  After sitting in the brine for 5 days, the brisket was simmered for over 3 hours. The tongue was cooked overnight for about 12 hours in the crockpot. Both are falling apart tender and tasty. To complete this sublime moment of having my very own corned beef, I needed fresh rye bread. After looking at a few recipes, I settled on a dark, sweet Finnish rye that sweetened with molassas and soured with buttermilk. Easy to make, and really tasty! Corned beef sandwiches on dark rye bread, slathered with a spicy whole-grain horseradish mustard. Reminiscent me of my childhood, but so, so much more grown up…

I think the folks of are right. This IS sexy.

A Witches Brew

Pickling spices done Wednesday evening. Over 6 pounds beef brisket and nearly 3 pounds of tongue sitting on the counter, due to my partner in crime. Tonight, I make the brine- a warm, sweet enticing elixer. Aromatic, salty, and pretty to look at. It’s inviting, wafting tempting smells, billowing sweet steam. It is a bit sexy, if you will. If I didn’t know better, I’d take a dip myself!

Thanks to forces more nocturnal than me, I wake this Thursday morning to my brisket and tongue sitting patiently in the brine (thank you nocturnal assistant). There they will stay for 5 days, until the beginning of next week, when I can cook them off and savor the glory that is a simple piece of meat, brined and corned…

Corned Beef, anyone?

The March Charcutepalooza challenge is brining. This month, I will be brining and cooking off brisket for corned beef. Substantially easier than the last two challenges, I may try my hand at beef tongue too. The time it takes to brine is shorter than the last two salt cures, a little under a week. Corned beef sandwiches on rye bread with deli mustard and matzo ball soup. Reminds me of being a little girl, eating at the deli with my dad. And tongue, well, who doesn’t love a little lengua?

Pancetta. Perfecto.

Well, not exactly perfecto. But after wiping some weird mold off it and cutting that end off for safe measure, pretty darn good. I heated a piece to test, and was enveloped in bliss. At once similar to bacon, and again not at all like it, it was rich, peppery, earthy, fatty. It’s beautiful, really. The flavor is hard to describe- it’s not really like any pancetta I’ve bought at a store. It’s so, so much more…

I leave town for a couple days to head to the beautiful olympic peninsula, but before that, I have the best breakfast ever: pancetta and eggs, with wheat toast and black coffee. Can’t wait to use the rest of it! Half of it is frozen for later use, but I don’t see it lasting long…

Pancetta is hanging!

It’s February 1st, and after a little over a week in the cure, my pancetta is finally ready to be rolled and hung. Let me tell you, for those folks participating in these monthly charcutepalooza challenges, having help with this task would have been a BIG advantage. Wrestling 5 pounds of pork with these two little hands was not an easy feat. It took for-fucking-ever, but I did it. It’s rolled, tied up and now hanging- barely- above the bottom surface of my wine fridge. One could almost say it’s standing… While this would have been easier with another person to assist me, I have to say the sense of accomplishment that comes from learning how to do this all on my own is really empowering. Now I have to figure out what to do, on my own, with several pounds of pancetta!