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

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.

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.

Cassia Bud Lambcetta

Sitting at dinner with great company on a frigidly cold winter night, a dish came out with lamb pancetta. A few of the guests were surprised by the substitution of lamb for pig in the pancetta. After discussing the intricacies of how to make lambcetta, I offered to make some for a friend with a fantastic sense of taste. I asked what he wanted flavor-wise and he suggest to go off-script with cinnamon. When looking through a spice shop, I noticed cassia buds which are simply dried buds of the cinnamon tree and carry similar, but more floral flavors than more traditional cinnamon.

Given the baking spice flavors from the cassia buds, I wanted to make sure the pancetta did not take the evil turn into sweet territory. I thought outside of pouring French Onion soup mix or straight MSG over the cassia buds, the flavors which would make the cure decidedly savory was piment d’Espelette and I had just cold smoked a bunch of it. Finally I added bay because bay is delicious. At this point, the cure smelled like a fancied up and punch version of Old Bay spice.

After ten days in the cure and 75 days hanging, I had not gotten the weight loss I usually look for and over the past 3 weeks the weight had stayed essentially level, so I pulled the rolled lamb bellies from the garage and trimmed them. The proportion of fat to lean was far higher than I expected. This may account for the stalled loss of water weight.

I rendered some of the trimmed ends to kill some of the young red mustard greens from our garden. There are few cooking smells which rival pancetta. Add lamb, the cassia buds and chilis and you have a tremendous lure to the kitchen. Freshly picked young mustard greens are delicious and need very little of anything. The wilting power combined with the aroma from the cassia/chili infused hot lamb lard made a delicious two ingredient dish. And while I am not a real proponent for easy/quick, if you discount the 85 days of curing and hanging, this was about as quick as it gets.

Cassia Bud Lambcetta

Based on a kilo of lamb belly

3 garlic cloves
5 grams pink salt
27 grams kosher salt
10 grams sugar
8 grams pepper
5 grams cassia buds
5 bay leaves
10 grams smoked piment d’Espelette (smoking not needed) or pimenton (if you wish) or Calabrian chili powder (you understand)

Post cure rub

Equal parts cassia buds, peppercorns or bay.

Step one: Combine ingredients and dredge lamb belly in cure. Let sit in fridge for 10 days, flipping daily.

Step two: Rise the belly and let sit over night uncovered in fridge.

Step three: Apply desired amounts of crushed cassia buds, crushed peppercorns and crushed bay leaves . Roll, tie, and hang. Weighting roll before hanging.

Step four: Once roll is 70% of original weight. Remove from hanging chamber and slice as needed. If the belly is more fatty, you may never reach 70%. Please don’t cry. It isn’t your fault. Things will be delicious.

Cured Cod Roe

When strolling through Mitsuwa, our national Japanese grocery chain, I spotted a little styrofoam container with what I recognized as a sac of fish eggs. Typically, when I think of these styros, I think of boneless, skinless things with very little flavor, but this was exciting and new. I picked up a single sac and thought of curing it like bottarga, the deliciously briny Sardinian cured mullet roe.

I would love to claim this as bottarga and, to some degree, it is like bottarga. However being like bottarga is not being bottarga. This roe comes from cod, not from mullet. It was not pressed to form a compact brick and it was only hung for about a month. The yellow color so bright in bottarga is a little dulled. There is little of the popping of the roe with each bite. However, instead of the focus being on what it is not, I would like to focus on what it is.

This cured cod roe is briny and bright. The funkiness is limited by the short drying time, but the cured cod roe brings a taste of the sea with each bite. I took inspiration from my most recent dinner at Nightwood, where Jason Vincent made an Arzak egg with scrambled eggs encasing the runny yolk. The delicious bundle was then topped with freshwater fish roe. After a few tries with cooking times, I was able to cobble together the scrambled Arzak eggs. Then I sprinkled the cured cod roe over the top of the egg. With a salad of raw asparagus in lavender vinaigrette and baby turnips. The egg, roe and asparagus salad was a great combination of flavors and textures. A fantastic spring lunch.

Cured Cod Roe

1 egg sac of cod roe

Step one: Soak the egg sack overnight in salted water.

Step two: Line a coverable dish with salt. Carefully lay the egg sac on the salt and cover the egg sac with more salt. Let cure for 2 weeks.

Step three: Carefully brush the salt from the sac. Wrap the sac in cheesecloth and allow to hang to dry for 4 weeks.

Lap Yuk

Remember when pork belly was an off cut? Those days are gone. Long gone. While it is good for butchers and good for hog farmers (and really good for diners) how the belly and other former off cuts have moved closer to the mainstream, it is not so great for home bacon makers. However, our local market purchased a few acorn-fed Tamworth hogs and while the chops and ribs flew off the shelf, the belly was not even put out for sale. Moving to the burbs means living in the safe-zone much of the time, food wise, and the belly has yet to reach full market saturation here. When I asked if they had the bellies from the hog, they commented “yes” and “what are going to do with them?”. I mentioned bacon making and it got their attention enough to wrap a big belly and give me a price that I had a hard time believing.

When I got it home, it was a little more than I wanted to make, bacon-wise, so I square off the belly. With the two end pieces, I almost ground them for sausage fat, but I recalled a few weeks earlier in Chinatown seeing similarly sized pieces (the pieces I saw were longer, but I don’t want to look a Tamworth in the mouth) hanging over a butcher counter. It was lap yuk, Chinese cured pork.

It is not quite bacon as it is not smoked. While I am not a lover of the wet cure, the brine features nearly all wet ingredients, so I found little flexibility in shifting to a drier cure. After a week in the cure, I poked a hole in each piece of the belly and hung them in our garage to dry for three weeks.

While not fully dried, the pieces of belly were firm and sliced easily. They had taken on a ruddy dark color from the soy and black vinegar and resembled the meat product seen in Chinatown weeks earlier. Now that the lap yuk was ready, I wanted to eat it in an interesting way.

I was walking through Joong Boo looking for their bathroom when I saw dried jujubes and had my inspiration. Jujubes (not the candy) look exactly like red dates, so I picked up a package and went on my bathroom quest. Yes, in that order. After picking up some lap cheong (Chinese sausage) on another trip to Chinatown, I got to work.

Now, taking a step back, reading through food magazines lately, there has been a lot of focus on classic dishes and one I never see, but feel that should be in each list is one from Avec, here in Chicago. The dish – bacon wrapped dates. This simple dish consisting of dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon floating in a piquillo-tomato sauce is one of a number of dishes at Avec which never leave the menu, for good reason. As much as I try not to order them, we always end up getting them and are glad to have gotten them.

When I saw the date-like jujubes, it was my thought to take that dish as inspiration and stuff them with lap cheong wrap them in lap yuk and float them over a sauce with chili, sesame, and tomato. Once the idea phase was complete, the hardest part was taking the pits from the jujubes – which is no fun.

These were fantastic and, while it is impossible to live up to their inspiration, the sauce alone is worth repeating and throwing on veg or over noodles or eating from the jar at midnight. The lap yuk, with its deep flavors of sweetness and musky saltiness from the shoyu and texture halfway between pancetta and bacon, was a success. With pork belly price increases vastly outstripping food cost increases, making bacon happens less often than I would like, but I am really happy to get such a great belly and take a crack at a few different ways to prepare it.

Lap Yuk

500 grams skin-on pork belly
3 grams curing salt #2
40 grams soy sauce
20 grams black vinegar
10 grams sugar
10 grams salt

Step one: In a gallon plastic bag, combine salt, curing salt, soy, vinegar and sugar in the bag. Slosh around to combine. Yes, slosh.

Step two: Add pork belly. Seal the bag, then seal that bag in another bag. Flip daily in the fridge for a week.

Step three: Remove belly from both bags and rinse them.

Step four: Poke a hole through the belly and run twine through the hole. Tie off and hang in a cool, dry place for 2-3 weeks.

Chili-Sesame Sauce

2 roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed
1/4 cup sriracha
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 cup crushed tomatoes
Salt to taste

Step one: After peeling roasted peppers, combine peppers, sriracha, oil, tomatoes in a skillet over low heat.

Step two: At the first bubble, remove from heat and process until smooth. Taste and season.