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

Venison Summer Sausage

In round two of turning venison scrap from my father into something more edible, I made a dangerous choice – a sausage of great familiarity. Summer Sausage. It is easy to cook without context when the only question is “Does it taste good?” I guess easy is relative, because it seems easy in comparison to when you are cooking something familiar and add “Does it taste right?” to “Does it taste good?” Venison summer sausage is, when combined with Ritz crackers and cheese, the most popular pre-dinner, post-lunch food in Wisconsin. When given venison scrap, how could i have ignored the opportunity to stock the pre-dinner, post-lunch larder for the year, or more likely, the remainder of April?

I based the recipe on an earlier beef summer sausage I made. I also opted to keep the grind very coarse. This is somewhat in conflict with standard summer sausage, but I like the texture of the sausage better with a coarse grind despite liking the appearance better with the finer grind.

A finer grind gives the even and consistent red/white speckled sausage. The coarse grind gives a more irregular pattern, but keeps a more significant chew in the texture.

At every turn, I tried to keep the sausage traditional. Down to the fibrous casings. I typically prefer natural casings, but traditionally those casings are shunned for the synthetic casings.

With a short period for fermentation, there is a pleasant souring of the summer sausage. Once the casings have been soaked, stuffed, and set out to ferment, they dry overnight and then spend a little time over smoke. To maximize smoke time, I started the sausages over cold smoke. Cold smoking is not necessary, but if you take care to keep temps low in the beginning, the amount of smoke the sausages get before their temps reach 150 degrees is much higher.

After the sausages were dropped into a sink of ice and water to stop the cooking process, I chilled them. The next day, I sliced up the smaller sausage (the sausage I am keeping as a fabrication tax). The first thing I noticed was the texture was as I had hoped. There was no mushiness which can happen in the finely ground Wisconsin venison summer sausage.

The meaty and moderately gamey venison flavors were the most prevalent flavor with sweet smokiness. I smoked the sausages over chestnut hulls and corn cobs (mostly because I was cleaning out the freezer and they were there). The smoke coming from the corn cobs smelled amazing and I will save my summer cobs to smoke next fall. As I have noted in the past, I appreciate the gamier flavors of wild venison and really wanted to let those flavors come through.

The spices added subtle flavors, but these sausages were decidedly simple and I was happy for it. The contextless venison boudin from last week came with no measuring stick. A venison summer sausage comes with expectations and this sausage meets those and it is a relief more than anything.

Venison Summer Sausage

36 ounces venison, ground with large die
12 ounces pork back fat, ground with large die
1/4 cup ramp kraut juice
23 grams kosher salt
30 grams nonfat dry milk powder
20 grams dextrose
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon chili flake
4 grams pink salt
3 grams black pepper, crushed
3 grams coriander seed, crushed
1 grams fennel seed, crushed
6 grams mustard seed, crushed

Step one: Combine all of the ingredients above in a cold mixing bowl and stir with a paddle attachment until a meatball-sized piece of meat sticks to your hand as it is suspended.

Step two: Stuff into fibrous casings which have been soaked in hot tap water for 30 minutes. Tie tightly and prick casings to remove air bubbles.

Step three: Hang in a warm room for 10-12 hours to ferment. Then store in the fridge until you smoke the sausages.

Step four: Start the sausage with cold smoke (as cold as possible) for 2 hours. Then increase heat until sausages reach 150 degrees internal temps. Shock in an ice bath.

Step five: Store in the fridge. Consume with cheese, crackers, and beer.

Originally posted 2014-04-10 23:21:42. 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.

Barbecue in Brioche

Labor Day has come and gone. Whites are in the closet, but I refuse to put away the smoker. BBQ is a twelve month season, but, as I tend to do, I filled the smoker with ribs and an entire leg of goat to make sure I took advantage of the bag of coal and chunks of wood. This left us with a meal of ribs (and then some) and about seven pounds of smokey, rich goat. As I put all of the goat in the fridge, I was forced to stack  some random fridge goods a top a bag of the goat. When I checked in the next day, all of the gelatin and collagen had then the pulled goat leg like a terrine, but in nearly sausage-ish form.

With BBQ often times sitting atop a slice of enriched white bread, the first thing I thought of was setting the set barbecued goat leg in a loaf of soft, square bread like a saucisson en brioche. In the end, it is hard to beat brioche, so went to work going through two proofs of brioche before wrapping the dough around the barbecue and forming the dough into a pullman pan for its final rise.

After baking, I let the bread cool completely and took a slice. The results were better than I feared, but not as good as I had hoped. The set was not terrible, but looser than when it was chilled. It was not quite sausisson en brioche in appearance. However, because it isn’t a perfectly set terrine in brioche, doesn’t take away from the deliciousness of a self-contained sandwich of rich, buttery bread and savory smoked goat.

While the idea of sticking BBQ in a loaf of bread was new to me, the star here was the Pullman brioche. I typically love the lightness of the brioche crumb with the eggwashed crumt. By baking the bread in a Pullman pan, you lose a little of the lightness and all of the egg washed crust, but what you get is an eggy, sweet and soft loaf which is more versatile than the standard brioche.

For reference, my brioche of choice is the recipe from Julia Child. It is pretty bullet proof.

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.