Tag Archives: charcutepalooza

Adult Spaghettio’s: Anelletti with Bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

~ Anelletti, Bacon, Sweet Potato, Peas, Sage, Parmigiano ~

This recipe is a celebration of bacon. Not just any bacon, but a wedge of my own home-cured bacon: a wicked habit I developed after a year of making my own charcuterie courtesy of Charcutepalooza. Since then, I always have a stash of bacon on hand, portioned from a hefty slab I cure every few months.

Once again I found myself this week at the dinner hour when I hadn’t shopped and the refrigerator was bare. (How does this happen when I cook and write about food?)  In this situation, an easy improvised pasta dinner is on the menu. Naturally, I reached for a hunk of bacon, cubed and fried it, rendering a slick of fat. Normally I would discard the fat and proceed from there, but since it was my own bacon, I wasn’t ready to part with it, preferring to celebrate it somehow, so I dumped a chopped sweet potato unearthed from the vegetable bin into the pan, frying the potato until glistening and tender. Not quite finished, I gave a few semi-wilted sage leaves a reprieve (I said my refrigerator was empty) and fried them until crisp. Now I was ready to discard the bacon fat, all but a tablespoon, which I used to sauté a little garlic and and a handful of peas just long enough to release the garlic’s aroma and brighten the peas.  Then all of the ingredients, redolent with bacon, converged in a bowl with a wonderful pasta I discovered in my pantry, smuggled home from a long-ago trip to Italy. I call them adult spaghettio’s.  Continue Reading Anelletti with bacon, Peas and Sweet Potato

Home-cured Bacon and a review of Alexian Pate

~ Brined Pork Belly ~

It’s been over a year since I started to post homemade charcuterie on TasteFood. One of my favorite recipes – and easiest – is the home-cured pork belly, aka bacon, which I continue to do on a regular basis. I am here to say, that you – any of you – can do this too, and that once you try it, there will be no going back. Not only are the results positively swoon-worthy, the process is ridiculously simple. You only need to plan ahead.

Home-Cured Pork Belly

Five pounds sounds like a lot of meat, but the bacon is easy to freeze and a welcome gift for your bacon-loving friends. Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine.

5 pounds pork belly with skin
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Rinse the pork and dry. Lay on a large sheet of parchment paper. Combine salt, sugar, peppercorns and bay leaves in a mortar or spice grinder. Coarsely pound or grind. Mix in the garlic. Smear the spices all over the pork. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag, turning to distribute the spices. Place on a rimmed baking tray and refrigerate for 7 days, flipping the bag every second day.
After 7 days the pork should feel firm to the touch. (If not, refrigerate an additional day and check again). Remove the bacon from the bag and thoroughly rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Heat oven to 200 F. Place bacon in a rectangular baking pan and roast until the meat is brown and an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 150 F., about 3 hours.
Transfer the bacon to a cutting board. Slice off the skin with a long, thin knife. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to refrigerator. Cut in portions and wrap in plastic. Bacon will keep in refrigerator for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

See? Easy to make. All that you need is time to plan ahead for a week of letting the meat brine in the refrigerator. Admittedly, we don’t always have time for such a project, and when a go-to specialty product comes across my radar for easy use, I am interested. So it felt a bit like Christmas when I recently received a box from Alexian Pate and Specialty Meats filled with an assortment of pates, rillette and terrines.  On the heels of a year of Charcutepalooza posts on TasteFood, it must have been evident that I love charcuterie. When Alexian reached out to me and asked if I would like to try a sample selection of their all-natural delicacies, it was hard for me to resist.

As most of you know, I rarely do product reviews. It’s not so much out of principle, but more that I rarely come across products which genuinely excite me. Call me picky, I prefer my products authentic and my ingredients to be fresh and natural – especially when it comes to meat. So, Alexian caught my attention. Their charcuterie are all-natural, with no chemical preservatives, fillers, additives and colors, and their meats are free of antibiotics and growth stimulants. They are a family run business, and “A Certified Woman Owned Business Enterprise” to boot, with their traditions dating back to Germany’s 17th century. With that resume, I was quite impressed and eager to taste a sampling of their specialties.

When the box arrived, it indeed felt like Christmas.  We have happily indulged in Duck Liver Mousse with Cognac, a rustic and hearty Pheasant Rosemary Pate, unctuous award winning Duck Rillettes, and a silky Truffled Mousse flecked with mushrooms and laced with sherry.

The flavors of the products reflected the company philosophy. They were fresh with a clean taste of meat and no lingering gaminess. The Truffled Mousse was the family favorite, smooth, creamy and delicately perfumed with truffle. Each package came with a shelf life of at least 56 days, enabling us to savor and enjoy each item over several weeks, pulling them out for an easy rustic dinner of cheese and pate or as an appetizer while entertaining. I will continue to make my own charcuterie when I want a project. When I want a go-to specialty meat product I won’t hesitate to buy Alexian.

If you are looking for other charcuterie projects, you might enjoy these recicpes from TasteFood:
Pork Rillettes with Calvados and a Recipe for Apple Prune Chutney
Homemade Bratwurst and a Recipe for Beer Mustard
Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta
Homemade Merguez

Full disclosure: I received the Alexian products free of charge. The opinions I have written are entirely my own.

The Grand Finale: Charcutepalooza Cassoulet

~ Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew ~

Finally the finale. The year of meat has come to an end. This month is the last Charcutepalooza challenge, which requires a menu, platter or composed dish incorporating 3-4 of the charcuterie items prepared over the year. My first inclination was to prepare a platter, because, frankly, this is how I best prefer to enjoy charcuterie – on a large wooden board with an array of little bowls filled with pickles, mustard, black peppercorns and sea salt, accompanied by slabs of country style bread (and just a little cheese.)

~ Caramelized Home-cured Bacon, Boar & Pork Pate, Pork Rillettes ~

But this is the finale, so something more substantial and celebratory than a charcuterie board is in order. December is holiday season, and nothing speaks more to our Danish family than duck at Christmas. And what better way to celebrate duck than with a cassoulet – a French white bean stew brimming with duck leg confit, sausage and bacon. This version is not an authentic cassoulet, as I had to use whatever homemade charcuterie I had in the freezer or could make on short notice. So, I am calling it a Charcutepalooza Cassoulet – or a Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew.

Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew

Start with uncooked white beans for best results – canned beans will turn mushy. If you don’t have access to duck confit, then substitute with an additional pound of duck breast. Serves 4-6.

1 cup dried cannelini beans or northern beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound duck breast (1 large), skin removed and reserved for another use
1/2 pound mild pork sausage
1/4 pound bacon, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (15 ounces) plum tomatoes with juice
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 confit duck legs, boned, meat shredded

Bring beans and 4 cups (1 liter) of water to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 1 hour. Drain.
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof pot with lid or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and duck breasts in batches without overcrowding. Brown on all sides. Transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, halve each sausage and cut duck breasts in 2 inch chunks.
Add bacon to the pot. Saute until lightly brown and fat renders. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat. Add garlic, onion, carrot and celery.  Saute until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any brown bits; reduce by half. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf and thyme. Stir in beans and return sausage and  duck breast to the pot, submerging in the stock. (If necessary, add more stock to cover.) Cover and transfer to oven. Cook until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove from oven and stir in the duck confit. Return to oven and cook, partially covered, for an additional 1 hour.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

The Cure and a Recipe for Spinach Salad with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette

Charucutepalooza #11: The Cure – Air Dried Pork Tenderloin

I knew the mini-bar had a purpose. There is a funky mini-bar downstairs in our home which serves no use except to take up space – that is until now. This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge is curing (which is another way of saying hanging and drying) a whole piece of meat. The trick is to hang the meat in an environment which maintains a steady temperature and humidity level. The professionals might use a curing chamber which will do all of this in a sleek, shiny, high tech manner. For us newbies we must rely on a basement, garage, wine cellar, and lots of faith tempered with caution. Of course, it would be helpful if we actually had a basement or wine cellar, or that the mild California climate would guarantee a steady cool temperature.

Enter the mini-bar fridge, which sits quietly forgotten, occasionally stocked with an overflow of party beverages, but usually empty. After reading a post by Michael Ruhlman, I realized that this appliance associated with my college dorm room could, in fact, house my meat. All I had to do was clean it and turn it to its warmest setting, and suddenly our clunky relic from the previous owner’s jacuzzi parties morphed into a handy dandy meat curing chamber.

Since I had no idea how any of this would turn out, and mindful that I might possibly produce results that could sicken my family, I decided to keep it very simple and cured two pork tenderloins. The process took all of 3 weeks, with no hands on attention except to remember to check it. My husband gamely offered to taste the finished results, and loved them, affirming – once again – that Charcutepalooza is making him one happy meat eating camper.

The meat is delicious to eat as is, but I also love to add dried ham to pizzas, pasta, eggs and salads. It’s salty, chewy texture gives just the right oomph to this winter spinach salad.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette, Toasted Pinenuts and Cured Pork

The warm balsamic dressing will lightly wilt the spinach greens as they are tossed. If you don’t have any air dried pork, oven dried prosciutto is an excellent and easily accessible alternative. Serves 4-6.

3/4 pound baby spinach, washed and dried
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, slightly smashed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cured pork or oven dried prosciutto (see below), broken in pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Place spinach and shallot in a large bowl. Combine garlic, vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until vinegar is reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly add oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Remove and discard garlic clove. Pour half of the warm dressing over the spinach. Toss to combine. Add more dressing to taste. Divide salad among individual plates. Scatter pork and pine nuts over the salad. Serve immediately.

To oven dry prosciutto:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place 8 slices of prosciutto on a baking tray in one layer. Bake in oven 15 minutes. Turn off oven; do not remove prosciutto. Let it sit in oven 15 more minutes. Remove and break into shards.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Pork Rillettes with Calvados and a recipe for Apple Prune Chutney

 Charcutepalooza Challenge #10: Stretching
Pork Rillettes with Calvados 

These little pots of meaty goodness promise to make right in the world. Rillettes are potted jars and terrines of meat confit, slow cooked in fat, shredded and packed in more fat. Rustic, unctuous and oh-so-rich, a little dab goes a long way. Which is why the process of making rillettes is called “stretching,” which is this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge.

Stretching is an economical and sparing way of making meat last – using all of the last bits and preserving them for later use. It’s a method steeped in conservation and frugality, yet its results are rich and luxurious. It’s the paradox of French country cooking, and it’s why I love it.

Duck, goose and pork are traditional proteins for rillettes. I chose pork and adapted a recipe from WrightFood where the pork is spiced and marinated overnight in Calvados, then slowly cooked in duck fat. Need I say more?

~
I like to accompany rillettes with fruit chutney. The sweet piquancy of chutney adds a fresh balance to the rich meat. Chutneys are flexible and forgiving. Use a mix of fresh and dried fruit, combined with an acid, such as vinegar or citrus. Sweet and savory with a kick, chutneys are perfect accompaniments to meat and poultry.

Apple Prune Chutney
Makes about 2 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 large shallot, chopped, about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted prunes
1/3 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Armagnac
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon finely ground juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples and shallot. Sauté until beginning to soften without browning, 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until liquid has nearly evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until use. May be made up to 2 days in advance. (Flavors will develop with time.)

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Kale Wrapped Salmon and Scallop Mousseline with Tomato Coulis

~ Charcutepalooza Challenge #8: Mousseline (and Cinematic Musings) ~

Even Fred Flintstone needs a break from meat now and then. I’ve been eating lots of red meat lately, so I was pleased that this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge presented the option of making a fish or seafood mousseline. What a delightful break from all of the meatiness. If previous challenges invoked the Flintstones, then this challenge was akin to Bambi. As I embarked upon this challenge my vision shifted from a Quentin Tarantino blood and guts filled trailer to a dreamy, gauze-filtered Jane Austen period piece. I pictured a tea party, replete with platters of finger sandwiches and fluffy delicate mousseline, and birds and butterflies fluttering around the garden table.

Yet even Bambi has its dark side. In this case it was the absolute cyclone that hit my kitchen while making and photographing this recipe. (Come to think of it, this seems to happen with most Charcutepalooza challenges). If you saw The Sixth Sense, do you remember the scene where all of the kitchen cabinets are flung open in a moment of fearful suspense? That is the state of my kitchen at this moment – utter disarray, overturned pots and pans, rejected food props, gooey knives, soiled kitchen towels, flung open drawers and doors. I am sure the refrigerator is still ajar, and most likely a few 4-legged gremlins are lurking about. Mighty scary, indeed. So if you will excuse me, I have some cleaning and possible exorcising to do.  Then I will change my clothes and sit down for my Charcutepalooza-Jane Austen inspired tea party.

Kale Wrapped Salmon and Scallop Mousseline with Tomato Coulis

I love kale and frequently pair it with salmon, so I couldn’t resist creating a ribbon of kale to encase the mousseline. As a surprise, I nestled a scallop in the middle of the mousse, which is an optional step. (Note: If you add the scallop it will infuse the salmon mousseline with a lovely sweet and briny flavor).
To pull it all together on the plate I made a simple tomato coulis which adds a bright acidic note to the luxurious mousse. Makes 6.

6 large kale leaves, split in half lengthwise, stems and ribs removed
1 pound salmon filet, skin and pin bones removed, cut in 1 inch chunks
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
3 sea scallops, halved horizontally
Tomato Coulis (recipe below)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add kale leaves and blanch 15 seconds. Remove with tongs and shock under cold water. Lay flat on a kitchen towel and pat dry.
Combine salmon, egg whites, shallots, dill, salt and pepper in a bowl of a food processor. Process until completely smooth. Transfer salmon to a bowl and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300 F. (160 C.) Lightly oil (6) 3/4 cup ramekins. Carefully line the sides of the ramekins with the kale leaves. Remove salmon from refrigerator. Fold in 1/2 cup whipping cream. Return salmon to refrigerator. Whip remaining 1/2 cup cream in bowl of electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold into salmon mixture. Spoon half of the salmon mixture into the ramekins. Nestle a scallop half in center of salmon. Top with remaining salmon.
Place ramekins in a baking pan. Fill the pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover with buttered parchment. Bake in oven until puffed, firm and cooked through, about 35 minutes. (A toothpick will come clean when inserted in the middle).
Remove ramekins from oven and water bath. Invert onto a serving plate. Drizzle Tomato Coulis around the mousselines. Garnish with dill and lemon.

Tomato Coulis
Makes about 1 cup

1 pound ripe plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make shallow incisions around the stem with a paring knife and scoop out the stem. With same knife, make a shallow X-incision in bottom of tomato. Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil.  Plunge tomato into water for 10 seconds.  Remove and submerge in a bowl of ice water. Remove the cooled tomato from the water.  Peel away skin. To seed the tomato, cut the tomato in half.  Use your fingers to scoop out seeds and remove the core.
Combine tomatoes and olive oil in bowl of food processor.  Process until smooth.  Add salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for one hour before serving.  (Can be made one day in advance.  Cover and refrigerate.)  Serve at room temperature.

Homemade Bratwurst and a recipe for Beer Mustard


~ Homemade Bratwurst and a recipe for Beer Mustard ~

This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge had the whiff of Oktoberfest. Not only were we asked to make and stuff more sausages, we were asked to blend and emulsify the meat filling to a consistency found in a hot dog, bratwurst or weisswurst. I chose the bratwurst, partly for it’s happy collaboration with beer and partly for its relative ease compared to the hotdog. Baby steps, please!

As I embarked on this challenge over the July 4th weekend, I envisioned dirndls, sauerkraut and good strong mustard in my future. Somehow a trip to Europe has eluded us this summer, but, by golly, if we can’t make it back for a visit, then I will bring Europe home to my California kitchen. I spent the better part of a day on  this challenge, which provided much thoughtful time to reflect on how I would title this post. Here are a few of the contenders:

How to make a Danish family happy:
Yes, my husband is Danish and bratwurst is German. At the end of the day, they share a border, and, while their history may have been a tad testy, these 2 countries also share a culinary love for sausages. In Denmark, sausage is the fast food of choice, with carts distributed wherever people roam. While I may be hunting down a cup of coffee upon international arrival from the U.S., my husband will sidle up to the nearest airport sausage cart with both of our kids in tow, and order a flight of pølse with mustard, bacon and crispy onions. Apparently his gene pool is the strongest.

How to train a terrier:
Or, more specifically, the unflinching interest my dog is showing in me while making bratwurst is unsettling. I have never succeeded in getting our terrier to consistently obey me. Now I know how.

Why a power hose should be our next new kitchen gadget:
Sausage, sausage everywhere…on the counters, on the floor, in the sink, in the bowls, in the mixer, in the grinder, in my hair, under my nails, on my clothes and countless kitchen towels.  And did I mention that my dog is intently staring at me?

The difference between white pepper and black pepper: 
White pepper is traditionally used in dishes that should not show dark flecks of black pepper. But visuals are not the only difference. White pepper has a potent spiced flavor which, in large amounts, I don’t care for. Too bad I only figured that out after I added a heaping spoonful to the filling.

Familiarity breeds contempt:
I am 6 hours into the meat stuffing process, which includes handling, chopping, chilling, grinding, chilling, mixing, frying, tasting, chilling, stuffing, chilling, poaching, frying and tasting ground, blended meat. I think I’ll tuck these babies away in the freezer and take a time out.  Then I can rename this title to: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I could be watching Wimbledon and sipping Pimms right now:
But, no, I am blending and stuffing bratwurst in the company of my dog. Pass the sauerkraut and a beer, please.

Mustard makes everything taste better:
Especially when everything involves sausage. Truth be told, these were quite tasty, and my family gobbled them up (see title #1). I pan-fried the bratwurst and served them with thick slices of country-style bread, mustard and sauerkraut. As we ate the bratwurst, we watched Wimbledon highlights and enjoyed an ice cold Danish beer. The EU is alive and strong in Northern California.

Homemade Beer Mustard

Begin the mustard at least two days before serving. Makes 1/2 cup. (Recipe may be doubled.)

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark beer
1 tablespoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine mustard seeds, vinegar and beer together in a non-reactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Transfer mustard and liquid to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; immediately remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add remaining ingredients and purée. Transfer to a glass jar or container and refrigerate overnight. Mustard may be stored in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)


A recipe for Sausage and Broccolini Pasta and a tale of the Elusive Casing

Charcutepalooza Round #6
The Challenge: Homemade Italian Sausage

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you must be prepared to traverse the county, futilely cold call farmer’s market purveyors, and face rejection at multiple Whole Foods stores and independent markets in search of the elusive casing a.k.a. pig intestines – or the sacred vessel that contains the cherished meat in the form of a sausage.

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you shall be prepared to pay dearly for said casing when located, because either:

  • The local supermarket is flummoxed when it comes to charging for an empty casing, and, at the risk of compromising highly sensitive payment technologies, will charge you the price of a whole sausage. Yes, that’s right: You will be required to pay for a sausage without meat.
  • You belatedly order from the stalwart Charcutepalooza ally, D’Artagnan, thereby assuming full responsibility (and overnight shipping charges) due to your procrastination, in order to avert a last minute crisis and Charcutepalooza meltdown.
  • Or you flee your suburban confines for the lure and anonymity of the big city  – and the Ferry Building – which entails paying bridge tolls, parking fees, and extraneous charges in the form of lunch and shopping. (Hey, it’s the Ferry Building.)

If you succeed in obtaining the elusive casing you will be jubilant and nearly home free, until you unpack your brand new meat grinder and sausage stuffer and realize you must decipher a cryptic code to correctly assemble the tools to achieve your desired results. Your trusted assistant, a.k.a. spouse, will selflessly risk life, limb and marital conflict, while cautiously advising you on all matters of RTM (that’s code for Reading The Manual). You will soldier on and prevail, sausages and marriage in tact, another Chaructepalooza challenge met with glorious and grillable results.

~
Given the amount of effort required to find the sausage casing, it’s not without irony that many recipes including sausage in pasta or on pizza, recommend discarding the casings and crumbling the meat. Well, rest assured, this recipe requires no such thing.

Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta with Basil
Serves 4 

1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, penne, pipette rigate
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage links (see below)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
3/4 pound broccolini, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in half, plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice in 1/4 inch pieces.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccolini and continue to sauté until bright green but still crisp, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer 3-4 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Add pasta and sausages to the skillet. Toss to combine and thoroughly heat through. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves and cheese. Serve immediately garnished with extra cheese and basil.

~
Homemade Italian Sausage
Makes about 3 1/2 pounds sausage, or 12 links

I followed Hank Shaw’s sausage making technique in this post from Simply Recipes  and used these ingredients  for the filling:

3 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 pound pork fat
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted, finely ground
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced  fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry red wine

What is Charcutepalooza?

An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Homemade Merguez

For this month’s Charcutepalooza event, we were challenged  to make our own bulk sausage, either as breakfast sausage, merguez or chorizo. This one had my full attention. If it’s possible to express sentiment over a sausage, then the merguez would be considered my first true love in the charcuterie department.

I first ate merguez when I lived in Paris.  They were unlike any sausage I ever tasted. Finger-thin, lean in fat and fiery red hot, these North African sausages were the wizened angry little men of sausages – taut, feisty and not to be underestimated. They were easily found in the myriad couscous restaurants sprinkled throughout the city, from street vendors and specialty markets. Eaten alone, with couscous, or in a bun with frites and sauce – merguez were the essence of Morocco. Fragrant with cumin, coriander and sumac, dry and hot like the desert heat, and fiery red with harissa – one bite and you were transported.

Since then, and following moves further north in Europe and to the U.S., those merguez have become a food memory, frequently reminisced at the dinner table and used as a point of comparison (without success) when encountering other sausages calling themselves merguez. So far, nothing I have eaten replicates the North African merguez I tasted in France.

So, this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was particularly exciting. Why not try to make my own merguez? While I had no illusion of immediately recreating my distant memory of perfection, I would use the bulk sausage challenge as an opportunity to tinker with flavor, spice and heat before any fussing with stuffing the casings. I would form simple patties which I would stuff in pita bread. While the patties may be the lazy oafish cousin to the taut, skinny merguez sausage, the hope was that the taste would be undeniably related.

Merguez Bulk Sausage

I followed the technique for making bulk sausage from Charcuterie and formed the meat into small patties, or keftas. As for the spices, I concocted a heady mix of harissa, coriander, cumin, fennel and sumac. If needed, I planned to add lamb fat rather than pork fat, since the merguez I ate in France were Halaal. This proved unnecessary, however, since lamb shoulder provided enough fat for my taste.

1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons harissa paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground lamb shoulder
Olive oil

Toast fennel, coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan over medium heat until fragrant, 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar with pestle or spice grinder, and grind until fine. Combine in a bowl with all of the remaining ingredients except the lamb. Stir to form a paste. Add lamb and thoroughly mix together with your hands. Form into 1 1/2 inch patties. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add patties, without overcrowding, in batches. Cook, turning once, until brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and keep warm. Repeat with remaining patties.
Serve with pita bread, harissa sauce, Greek style yogurt and fresh mint leaves.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Smoking Hot: Salmon and a Smoky Chowder Recipe


Smoked Salmon Chowder

This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge is smoking hot, all right. The instructions? To hot smoke pork or salmon. Last month I wined and brined a pork rib roast, so I decided to go fish this month. After all, who can resist a slab of succulent, smoky salmon? In our home it’s considered it’s own food group.

I made several filets, knowing that if I didn’t look out, the smoked salmon would be gobbled straight up before I could embellish or create a recipe with it. My strategy was to centrally place a finished piece in the refrigerator for sacrificial consumption – a decoy, if you will – while I stashed another couple of hunks in the crisper for later creative use.

First things first, the hot and smoking method is simpler than you may think. Methods abound using smokers, weber grills, woks, stovetop smokers. I have a weber kettle grill, which I’ve often used for smoking, so chose that method. The salmon should be brined first, which may be done in as little as an hour or over several days. The longer brine time results in salmon gravlax, which produces saltier, more flavorful results – perfect if you wish to enjoy the fish au natural. I didn’t want to wait, opting for a 2 hour brine, followed by air-drying and smoking the fish, all of which I accomplished within an entire day.


Fast forward a day, and, as expected, the decoy fish was quickly consumed. It’s been raining lately, and I have had a hankering for a creamy, smoky chowder. I make chowders all the time, and always include a smoky component – either in the form of smoked fish or bacon. In this rendition, the only fish I used for the chowder was the hot smoked salmon. The results were wickedly good.

Smoked Salmon Chowder
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
Salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound russet or yukon potatoes, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups water
2 pounds hot smoked salmon, broken in chunks (or 1 pound smoked salmon + 1 pound uncooked salmon filet)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a deep skillet or soup pot. Add onion, fennel and 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until the onion becomes translucent and the fennel softens, 3 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add potatoes and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until potatoes are tender but not too soft, 15 minutes. Stir in salmon, cream and black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.
Taste for salt – depending on how salty the salmon is, you may need more. Serve hot, garnished with fresh parsley or chopped fennel sprigs.