We host a dinner party periodically which is actually just a book club to which my wife belongs. Typically those types of groups are simply drinking clubs, but this one adds food and actual books. About a week before book club, I realized my original plan of serving cassoulet had been done before. By me. Last winter. It seems as when the weather grows cold, I cook beans – large pots of beans with sausages and off cuts.

Actually I should have never been surprised. Beans and meats are fantastic and this weather has forced my hand. Only, I am not a repeater. Knowing fabada is a not-so-distant cousin to cassoulet, I figured there must be more cousins. I just needed to look.

Then I remembered a Brazilian dish, feijoada, which is very similar to cassoulet only made with black beans and features carne seca (which in its place I used beef jerky). I felt like I had struck gold until I searched for recipes. I looked in Alex Atala’s new book. Nothing. In fact, Atala’s goal is to push past the iconic feijoada and churrasca of Brazil.  I looked online. There were tons of recipes and none developed any consensus with the others, so I did what I thought was reasonable. I made an approximation of cassoulet using the building blocks of feijoada adding some ingredients which might be a tad more Brazilian.

One thing I remember being difficult about fabada was losing bits of the pork tails, bones included, in the dish. If I am the only one eating, I can work around the bones, but if I am serving others, I like to keep their teeth intact, so along with the larger pieces of jerky, I wrapped the pork tails in cheesecloth. Once they cooked long enough, I removed the cheesecloth, chopped the tails and beef jerky and added them back. Before adding them back, I thickened the liquid by mashing a cup of the cooked beans and added them back to the mix.

Next, I wanted to have some flavors from the sugar cane liquor from Brazil, Cachaça, so I cooked the onions and garlic, added them to the beans, then deglazed the pan with the liquor and spooned the aromatically fortified liquor the beans. To me, this was a fun touch.

When finished the feijoada was strongly meaty, as anticipated, and was both smokey from the tails and linguiça and prominently beefy from the jerky. The beans retained their texture and, while most photos showed the liquid strained off, I really liked the bean juice. It was thick and carried hints of sweetness from the orange and cachaça. I wish I could have found a little farofa to add as a garnish, but the bright green garnishes of cilantro and green onion would have to suffice.

There are differences between cassoulet and feijoada that I did not anticipate. First, apparently feijoada is served with rice. Second, this batch  felt lighter than most cassoulet. There are no scoops of lard here, but you still get the clean meat flavors. I like the richness of cassoulet, but I really love the way the feijoada doesn’t kill the rest of the day. Now is a good time to stock up on ideas for meat and beans and I am all ears.


1 1/2 pounds smoked pig tails or necks
1 1/2 pounds Linguiça
1/2 pound real beef jerky, not shrink wrapped is a good start
1 pound dried black beans
1 quart ham stock
3 bay leaves
1 serrano chili
1/2 orange
2 onions, sliced
1 head garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lard
2 tablespoons Cachaça
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
6 green onion, sliced

Step one: In a glass or earthenware dish, cover black beans with water by 4″ and soak overnight. Drain.

Step two: Tie jerky and smoked pork tails in cheese cloth and add to a large stock pot with beans, ham stock and enough water to cover by 2″.

Step three: Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook for 3-4 hours.

Step four: Remove bag of meat. Chop and remove bones.  Remove 1 cup of beans, mash into a paste. Add back to beans.

Step five: Sweat onions and garlic. Add to beans/meat with bay leaves. Deglaze onion/garlic pan with Cachaça and add to beans.

Step six: Add sausages, orange, serrano chilis. Simmer for an additional hour.

Step sever: Remove bay leaves, orange, and seranno chili. Salt to taste and eat in a bowl with rice (if you want, I skipped), green onions and cilantro.

Originally posted 2014-02-13 00:20:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Chestnut and Concord Raisin Salami


Growing up, we always had a garden and, alongside the garden, we also had an enormous mass of concord grape vines. When we were there in early October, there were pounds and pounds of concords bending the vine, so how could I resist bringing home a bunch? One of my first thoughts was making raisins with the concords, but the problem I found was the enormous number of seeds.


After trying to manage the concord raisins by simply spitting the seeds (delicious but tedious), I took a step back and thought of what to do with these things. First, they were delicious – far more complex than regular concord grapes and sweeter than regular raisins. Second, they were dried – in my mind that would figure into how I used them. Finally, to get the seeds out, I would likely need to destroy the beauty of the raisins.

The last two thoughts took me directly to a dry cured sausage. Thoughts of classic fall flavors led to the addition of roasted chestnuts to the sausages. Chestnuts are one of those things you hear of in songs, but rarely in non-song life. Once you taste a good batch of chestnuts, you understand how they have taken such lofty song status. I find them to be a great pair with Midwestern, sweet fall grapes.



With that thought, into the oven went the chestnuts. After peeling the roasted chestnuts, they were chopped and cooled. Once the chestnuts were cooled, they were added with the seeded concord grape raisins to ground pork along with baking spices. After binding the pork, raisins and chestnuts, I stuffed them into hog casings.



For a day, the sausages waiting at room temp to ferment and then they went into the smoker. Given the add-ins discussed above, two obvious fuels for smoking were chestnut hulls and dried concord vines. After a few hours of cold smoke, these were hung up for a few weeks until they lost 30% of the hanging weight.


The raisiny sweetness and the smoke are the most prominent flavors of this sausage. Initially I was worried about the chestnuts going rancid during the curing process (I was reassured by Travis Grimes and Rob Levitt), but they held up well. They feature less prominently flavor-wise, but their mellow sweetness comes through in the finish.

Chestnut and Concord Raisin Salami

1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1/4 cup concord grape raisins, seeded
9 chestnuts, roasted and chopped
14 grams salt
5 grams dextrose
3 grams curing salt #2
2 grams granulated garlic
2 allspice berries
2 coriander seeds
2 cloves
2 fennel seeds
A few rasps of nutmeg
1 tablespoon ramp kraut juice (to start fermentation)

Step one: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to bind.

Step two: Stuff into hog casings, making sure no air remains in casings.

Step three: Leave at room temp to ferment for 24 hours the cold smoke for 24 hours.

Step four: Hang at 55-60 degrees to dry for 3-4 weeks until 30% weight is lost through evaporation.

Originally posted 2013-11-05 00:39:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Ham Shank Terrine

Life has been busier than normal and the time I spend in the kitchen, one of my favorite ways to unwind, has been inconsistent. In an effort to simplify and refocus my kitchen hobby, I went back to an ingredient, ham, and a preparation, terrine, I feel both comfortable with and inspired by.

I found ham shanks at an old German butcher shop near my parents home in Wisconsin. While not quite an off-cut, it is not prime real estate in a butcher case with smoked sausages and thick steaks and chops. I asked for whatever they had left and received 3 smoky and richly colored shanks wrapped in paper. When I picked them up, I didn’t have a good use for them, but we prepared for a party, I found a large collagen casing. I had never used a casing to stuff a terrine, but I thought, if I could make it work, a terrine encased in smooth casing would make a clean presentation.

Figuring that keeping things as simple as possible would make up for my relative absence from the kitchen, I kept the ingredients to a minimum and made sure to supplement the shanks with terrine insurance, pork trotters. After boiling the shanks for around three hours. I pulled the pink meat from the shank bones and as much of the trotter goo from the hooves. Once the meat was pulled, the gelatinous stock from boiling the shanks and trotters reduced and was added with a few heaping scoops of dijon to the still steaming pork. I whipped the pork until it was shredded and sticky with stock.

Then by hand, I stuffed the ham into the casing, tied it off and chilled it between sheet pans overnight. The next day, the terrine had clearly set. Later in the day, I removed the casing and sliced a bunch to serve. It had set very well without being overly gelatinous. The terrine had a beautiful cross section with the deep red of the outer most smoked shank, the pink of the remaining shank and the milky white trotters. Visusally, it was where I wanted it to be. The flavors were straight smoked ham. Simple and smokey with just a touch of sweetness.

Sometimes “straight forward” is not a desired outcome. This time, it was just what I needed. This ham shank terrine had just enough adventure to be exciting. Projects like this pull me back into the kitchen and hopefully gets me back into the habit.

Ham Shank Terrine

2 ham shanks (about 3-4 lbs. in total)
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 pork trotters, split
375 mL white wine
2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Step one: Add shanks, onion, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, trotters, and wine, then add water to reach the top of the shanks. Add two large pinches of salt.

Step two: Boil for 3 hours. Remove shanks and trotters. Strain liquid and begin reducing it.  Soak collagen casing in warm water.

Step three: Pick meat from trotters and shanks and add it to a mixing bowl with dijon mustard. Whip with a paddle attachment and begin to add reduced stock until it will take no more. Taste and reseason, if needed. Keep in mind, ham is salty.

Step four: Begin stuffing, by hand, the ham into the casing. Keep tamping down the ham and squeezing out air bubbles. Once you have added all of the ham (should be about 2′ of tube meat in a large summer sausage casing), tie off the tube and then tie it off again.

Step five: Press terrine between two sheet pans with a little weigh on top in your fridge overnight.

Step six: Remove casing and slice about a centimeter thin.

Note, you can easily do this in a loaf pan or with plastic wrap in a torchon shape.

Duck and Black Trumpet Salumi

Duck is delicious. It has a rich and complex flavor. However, I have made duck sausages multiple times and never once liked them. Every time, the classic flavors I paired with them taste too sweet – maybe they are classics because their sweetness balance the richness of the duck, but either way, they are not suitable as sausage flavors. When I happened upon a stewing duck at a farmer’s market, I grabbed it and stuffed in the freezer.

Here’s the thing. I don’t like stewed duck. However, the sound of how these ducks were raised, running free and eating bugs and what not, so I could not pass it up. After a month, I thawed the bird and de-boned it and went to making a sausage that does not repulse me. Working hard to fill the complements with savoriness, I grabbed a bag of dried black trumpet mushrooms. Then I grabbed a handful of szechuan peppercorns, some lard, a few spoonfuls of shoyu and a bunch of the duck skin. With what I grabbed, I understood this was feeling a bit more like a dried sausage.

After grinding, binding, stuffing and fermenting, I dried the sausages over a cool few weeks this fall and pulled them after they lost 30% of their hanging weight. The fermenting period brought out the deep red of the duck and hanging to dry did nothing to dull it. The dried black trumpet mushroom had softened but provided a nice color contrast to the deep red.

The flavor was funkier than I expected, but definitely not sweet. The deep, savory flavors in the mushrooms along with the funkiness of the slightly fermented duck were the most forward flavors with the distinctive szechuan peppercorn flavor strong in the finish. There was no mouth numbing qualities typically associated with szechuan peppercorns (not knowing the science, the aging process may cause a tingly depreciation). The best part is I broke through a couple massive failures and made a duck sausage I like.

Duck and Black Trumpet Salumi

365 g duck flesh
50 g duck skin
40 g lardo (bacon or back fat will do)
10 g salt
10 g shoyu
5 g dried black trumpet mushrooms, crushed
3 g szechuan peppercorns, ground
1 clove garlic, grated
1 g Bactoferm
1/4 c Water

Step one: Put duck flesh and fat along with bacon in freezer for an hour and then grind using a fine grind die.

Step two: Add salt, shoyu, crushed dried mushrooms, peppercorns and garlic. Whip with a paddle attachment.

Step three: Dissolve bactoferm in water and add to mixture. Continue to whip with paddle attachment until bound.

Step four: Stuff into casings, poke with needle to eliminate air pockets and leave at 75-80 degrees F to ferment overnight.

Step five: Weigh and hang to dry until 30% of hang weight is lost.

Smoked Beef Tongue

“Italian Beef” Tongue

With a large and growing cookbook collection, I get asked by friends who may not have the same cookbook issues, “How do you choose which book to cook from – much less what to cook from the book you choose?” This has to be a common question. My answer – I will grab a book based on what I have at home or based on what the season is. Sometimes, I will see something online which will push me to get back into a book. When I do find a book, the driving force behind picking a recipe is almost always a new technique or ingredient I want to try. In this case, there was a technique which included boiling beef tongue after smoking it. I was skeptical. Won’t you boil off any smoke flavors? Wouldn’t the other way be better? I had to try it for myself.

This preparation of beef tongue comes from the new The New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette who cooks at Toro in New York and Coppa and Toro in Boston. The book packs in a lot of really interesting cured, smoked, encased  and variety meats into a small book and runs the gamut of time-intensive cured and dried sausages to offal tacos. It reads almost like a DIY handbook, fast and dense.

Not what it looks like. This is a tongue in cure. A tongue.

With the guidance within the book, I went to work on a tongue from The Butcher & Larder. First poking holes with a needle to more quickly cure the tongue , then mixing and applying the cure. After a few days, and a few turns in the salty cure, I dried the tongue overnight to prepare it for the cold smoke.

I lit a chimney of coals and tossed in a few logs of apple wood to cold smoke the tongue. With full trust, I laid the cold smoked tongue, still floppy and uncooked, over chopped onions, carrot and celery and covered the tongue with water. After simmering the tongue for a few hours, the house smelled of wood smoke, the water smelled of wood smoke and most importantly the tongue, which has been chilled quickly in an ice bath, smelled still of smoke.

I peeled the tongue while it was still warm and then chilled it overnight in the fridge. In a perfect world, I would have sliced the tongue with a meat slicer to get the perfectly thin and consistent slices. I live in a world with limitations however, so I sliced it into ruddy and inconsistently thin slices by hand. The cold slices reminded me of subtly smokey deli roast beef in flavor, so I grabbed a challah roll, added some cold, sliced tongue and topped it with Bari giardiniera.

Cold tongue sandwich

Upon tasting it, it was lovely, but the addition of the giardiniera made me consider this more like Italian beef, so I steamed some of the smoked tongue and added it to challah roll #2, adding giardiniera again. This was the ticket. It was beefy with a softer texture. The thin slices kept it from being chewy. The smokiness gave it a very savory quality, but it was balanced and not in your face like BBQ or bacon. Bissonnette nails it when he says the things some people don’t like about tongue are solved by cooking it and slicing it like this.

The little bit which grabbed me when I read this recipe was the smoke then boil technique. I was admittedly skeptical about boiling after cold-smoking, but I am a believer. I just had to try it first.

Smoked Beef Tongue
From The New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette
(italicized notes are mine)

1 fresh beef tongue, about 3 lb (1 kg)

For the Cure:
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp coriander
2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp fennel seed
1 tsp caraway

Smoking chips (I used Apple Wood Chunks)

2 cups mirepoix

Use the jacquard (I used a needle) to punch the whole tongue evenly about 20 times. Rub the tongue in the cure mix and refrigerate it for 48 hours.

Set the chips on fire using one pan, then smother the fire with a small amount of water. Transfer the smoldering chips to the bottom half of a two-part perforated/nonperforated pan. Put the tongue in the top, then cover it tightly with tin foil. Poke 1 or 2 small holes in tin foil for smoke to escape. Cold smoke for 1 hour. (I used my cold smoking set up because I have one.)

Place the tongue in a stockpot and cover with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water. Add mirepoix. Bring to a boil, then turn down to just above simmer and cook 2 hours.

Remove the tongue and cool it in an ice bath. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel off the outer skin. Wrap the tongue in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve the tongue, slice it thin like deli meat for sandwiches or cut thick slices and grill. This also works nicely warmed up with chicken stock and
served with lentils.

Lamb Heart Andouille

A fifteen minute walk through a small-town Wisconsin farmer’s market yielded some of the finest variety meats I have had in some time for prices so low I could not fathom how there was so much to buy. In a state where offal is less flashily portrayed and truly ends up on your grandma’s dinner table rather than on a contrived dish using her as a prop, I was surprised to see offal from seemingly pristinely raised animals being ignored. Even so, there was an old man in traditional Amish garb selling what appeared to be some great lamb. I asked about offal and he brought out what he had. For a couple dollars (literally), I bought every last lamb heart the guy had with him. Then some ground lamb as well to make it worth his while.

I love lamb heart. The dark color and deeply gamey flavor make this cut for me. For someone not interested in lamb or who likes their lamb to taste like a chicken breast, this would be terrible. I had set the heart next to the ground lamb as I unloaded the car and noticed the ground lamb was significantly lighter than the heart. My initial hope was to make a lamb terrine and use the heart as inlaid garnish, but with plans to smoke some chorizo, I settled on making some andouille and hand chopping the lamb heart (and some pork fat) to mix in with the ground lamb.

Realizing lamb is not interchangeable with pork, I thought a smoked, heavily spiced sausage would benefit from the gaminess from the lamb heart. These sausages are typically used to flavor a larger dish, so there need not be so much subtlety. The process is relatively straightforward with a few key steps. Namely, leave the sausages uncovered in the fridge for 2-3 days. This will allow the smoke to better adhere to the dry casings of the sausages as well as quickly cure the sausages.

After smoking the sausages for a few hours, I dunked them in an ice bath and let them  bloom for an afternoon in our kitchen. Once they chilled in the fridge for a few days, I sliced them and cooked the sausages with chicken, aromatics, spices, stock and farro in something vaguely jambalaya-like. These sausages brought spice and smoke, but the lamb flavors stood out as the main differentiator from the more standard and heartless andouille.

Maybe had the nice Amishly garbed man been selling beef or pork offal, things may have gone differently. After all, I do not remember eating lamb before leaving home. I am happy to luck into these prime nuggets of lamb, especially given the affordability. It makes experimenting in sausage-form more feasible.

Lamb Heart Andouille 

Adapted from Paul Fehribach’s fantastic recipe for Andouille

1 lb. Lamb Heart, chopped by hand
1/2 lb. pork fat, chopped by hand
1 1/2 lb. ground lamb
1.2 oz. salt
4 teaspoons each freshly ground black pepper, granulated onion and granulated garlic
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon curing salt
4 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons non-fat milk powder
1/2 cup water

Method taken straight from the Big Jones’ recipe.

Instant Ramen Cured Egg Yolks

The weeks following our return from Japan proved to be a somewhat rocky re-entry. First, it reminded me how life does not wait when you are away, but rather piles up like the newspapers on your front step. Second, our jet lag combined with our girls’ new middle of the night loneliness made days next to impossible. Finally, after a week of eating better than maybe any other week of my life, what were our options when we got home? (I guess make everything out of koji.)

Ramen was our go-to lunch in Tokyo. Ramen here is no longer scarce, but scarcely very good. I spent most of my days after returning working consciously to not make mention of our ramen lunch habit. People’s eyes glaze over by sentence two of hearing about vacations. The response from those who actually responded with more than nods was frequently referring to the quarter per packet instant ramen and questioning why we would seek it out. Since these were the people nice enough to listen, I worked doubly hard to not condescend. I am not sure if I succeeded.

When I had to make something at home with egg whites, I was left with five yolks and a bad attitude about instant ramen. This stuff is awful – a complete salt lick.  Say it again, “It is a complete salt lick.” Even if that salt was MSG, I had these egg yolks and a few weeks to figure out if I could use powdered ramen broth as a cure for these yolks (for more on cured eggs yolks look here or here). I dropped two dollars on eight package of ramen and planned to let the poison in the packets transform the yolks.

Before curing the yolks, I froze and thawed them first to remove their fragility. I am not sure what happens with the proteins when they freeze, but the texture changes and, in this case, it is for the better. Scientists, please educate me. Once they froze and then thawed, though, I lined a glass dish with a third of the mixture and gently laid the egg yolks which were then topped with the remaining powdered ramen stock. Within a day, the salt/MSG had leeched out a ton of liquid. By the end of the week, the yolks were swimming in concentrated “ramen”-ish liquid and fully cured.

When I removed and rinsed them, their appearance reminded me of the amber from the Jurassic Park films and the smell reminded me of a college microwave – in some ways better than nostalgic. After wrapping the yolks in cheesecloth and hanging them for four days, I unwrapped them and chilled them overnight.

The next day, I grated the cured and dried yolks over some cha soba. The still blazing hot noodles half-melted the cured yolks and released the salty, MSG laden aroma from the ramen seasoning. With the grated yolk giving richness and then the savory qualities from the seasoning, I realized the flavor of the seasoning is actually really delicious, even addictive. Only it needs to avoid the customary broth it fortifies. Using it almost like parmesan cheese avoids the puffy ankles and tight wedding rings which follow a bowl of Maruchan Oriental Flavor Salt Soup and gives the strong flavors in little blasts instead of in heaping spoonfuls.