Le Grand Non-Gagnant de Cochon. Monday, Apr 22 2013 


The Grand Non-Winner

Cochon 555 Washington, DC 2013

This little piggy went straight to the bar afterwards.

This little piggy went straight to the bar afterwards.

Behind a fawned over figurehead’s formidable speech (Theodore Roosevelt notwithstanding),  is generally an obscured speechwriter worthy of a couple kudos, snap-shots, blogs, high-fives and twatters.  I am such a wordsmith with an equally subjective, savory craft who doesn’t always receive the credit they work hard to earn.

After all but begging my employer to get me to participate in the DC Cochon 555 edition since my requests to be considered as a candidate were routinely ignored, I had 5 weeks to develop a menu and after delivery of a decent Large Black hog from Leaping Water’s farm, 6 days to execute.  With the exception of a few fabrications and tasks that were delegated to colleagues, I made 96.83% of all the food; butchering the hog, brining the hams & bellu, making the aspic, the rillettes, the cheese sausage, the loin, the pâté en croûte, the pickles, the liver terrine, the pojarski, the breading, the gribiche and even cut the booties for the Pojarski.

Ham jam 2013.

Ham jam 2013.

As dictated by the contest rules, I would be judged based on usage of the entire animal, flavor, creativity, affability, star appeal and apparently marketing.  In hindsight, the menu should have mentioned the parts used, which have now been added in parentheses. The quality of the animal was not remarkable and any enthusiasm was quickly snuffed out by the presence of a few blood splashes in the shoulder caps, a symptom of careless slaughter and not being bled quickly enough.  Nonetheless, it was a decent hog.

Cochon 555, DC 2013

Range

Prosciutto Cotto (hams) & Mortadella (top sirloin, fatback)

Asparagus in blood aspic  (bones, feet, skin, blood)

and chicories in a smoked ham-hock vinaigrette. (shanks)

-∞∞∞-

Leverpostej.

Danish-style liver terrine wrapped in cured belly. (liver, trimmings, belly)

Salted and cured anchovies, a couple of marinated capers.

-∞∞∞-

Pâté en Croûte 

It’s heart, tongue, kidneys, fatback, pistachios and a few figs. (lard, trimmings, offal)

Some pickled rhubarb and mushrooms.

-∞∞∞-

Pork Belly Pojarski

Breaded and fried.  (belly, trimmings)

Ramp gribiche

-∞∞∞-

L’Astet

Loins roasted with spring garlic. (loin, tenderloin)

Warm confit potatoes and rillettes (jowl, belly)

-∞∞∞-

Saucisson en Brioche

Clothbound cheddar sausage baked in a leaf lard brioche. (trimmings, lard)

And cracklin’ whipped lard.

Hams (and shoulder caps) were given a heavy brine, tied and simmered.  Mortadella was stuffed into smaller beef middles so as to be more manageable to cut and serve.  Shanks were brined, smoked and simmered with tomato juice after which my sponsor assembled a vinaigrette with the diced meat, gelatin enriched tomato juice, pickled mustard seeds, olive oil and banyuls vinegar.  Stock was made from the feet, skin and bones then clarified with blood and egg whites.  The blood doesn’t impart so much of a flavor as it does an amber color, which didn’t necessarily produce a credible sanguine color until it was supplemented with clarified beet juice.  The asparagus was manicured and gently blanched, then tediously dipped like a candle in the aspic.

Me cook pretty one day.

Me cook pretty one day.

Danish style liver terrine was comprised of liver, belly, milk, eggs, salted anchovies, salt tears, madeira, lemon zest, picked thyme and a purée of onions cooked in lard.  The terrine was wrapped in slices of brined and poached belly.  I should have dry-cured the belly as the wet cure yielded flabby slices that were difficult to work with.  This was a very good terrine (a pressed pâté) with a proper balance of liver and meat and the lightest touch of anchovy, which could have been more pronounced.  The slice was adequately garnished with marinated salted capers and pickled white anchovies.

For the pâté en croute, lard represented the fat content of the dough, malt syrup supplemented the mixture for added strength and color and the corn starch was entirely eliminated so as not to compromise the amount of protein in the dough –so as to eliminate breakage.  Tongue, gizzard and heart were brined & cooked; premium trimmings marinated with Armagnac, lemon zest and thyme, figs plumped in booze and a delicate inlay of pistachio assembled with the addition of chlorophyll, egg whites and a nominal amount of trimmings.  The hinging properties of the mold were properly used to apply a decorative pig emblem and after learning a thing or 2 at the Pâté Croûte World Championship, the pâté was built upside down to ensure a clean top and eliminate fissures.   This was a very good pâté, and with absolute humility, better than any other there.

Good enough for government work, but not the judges.

Good enough for government work, but not the judges.

Pojarski’s were diminutive, fancy mock-cutlets fashioned from trimmings of raw shoulder, cured belly, onions cooked in lard, spices, toasted bread crumbs and cream.  Twice breaded and gussied-up with a paper bootie.  Gribiche made with barely boiled eggs became seasonal with a surplus of ramps; the bottoms sweated in olive oil, the top blanched & chopped, along with gherkins, mustards, lemon and whatnot.  They were fried to a golden George Hamilton  and down right delicious.

The loins and tenderloins were brined (without #1 curing salt) in a 5% brine flavored with rosemary and fennel seed. I do not remember any of the other contestants using the loin, surprisingly.  L’Astet is a regional pork dish from l’Aveyron that involves a trussed loin and garlic.  In this case, the tenderloin was cut in half lengthwise and threaded through the center of each quarter loin.  The loin(s) were expertly trussed, nice & tight, and left to marinate in olive oil with spring garlic.  It was later cooked to 145F internally, roasted fat-side down and sliced for the contest.  It was completed with one of the best batches of rillettes I have ever made –jowl, belly, 4 spice and meyer lemon.  Yukon gold potatoes were punched out, blanched and finished in rendered fat with mustard seeds.

A variant of saucisson à l’ail (garlic sausage) had clothbound cheddar replace the garlic and after a quick steam in the combi oven was wrapped in lard-based brioche dough and baked.  The prototype came out much better.  Inexplicably, these ones had a significant gap between the sausage and the dough which we had not experienced when using the garlic sausage.  It was a worthwhile sausage, though the binding properties of garlic make for a better, firm texture than cheese.

Complimentary smoked fat-back truffles with Bavarian pretzel crust were offered courtesy of our pastry chef and a testament to the amount of rendered lard that we used.  We had a modest amount of food left over after the liquor drenched event and with the exception of a pound or 2 of fatback, used up the entirety of the animal. 2 of the more reputable judges validated my efforts with firm handshakes and solidly honest compliments, but their votes were diluted by the great unwashed whose palates and eyes were fooled by pedestrian fare and stickers.  Congratulations and thanks to the teams from Proof, Vidalia and Birch & Barley for providing creative and satisfying fare under such considerable time constraints, particularly to those that did the work.  If there is a next time, I’ll develop a winning recipe for making T-shirts. Tremendous thanks to Richie Havens too, even if your career really took off before I was born.

The Best of the Wurst. Sunday, Dec 13 2009 

The Great Extrusion.

3 efficiently calculated varieties of tübesteak inspired from the 600 or so Germanic forms of extrüded meat for the send off the dearest sibling ever  to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland’s capital after 8 years in this one.  Many of the 20th Century’s most sinister Aryans’ wieners were smoked, (on and off the battlefield) though Kitsch und Klassics’  smoking hardware is severely  crippled; a modified file cabinet (the Germans coincidentally kept very good files) which erroneously filled the basement apartment with more noxious hickory gas than it did onto the meats to be flavored.  Consequently, a triptych of non-smoked finger-shaped finger food was conjured, the specific proportions of which will remain appropriately Top Secret:

Clockenwise von der top swine: Bierschinken, Nürnbergen rostbratwurst, Fingürlicken rindswurst.

Bierschinken: a breathtakingly large emulsified cooked pork sausage served cold not unlike mortadella or cervelas with chunks of pork and pistachios in it.  Ground twice, seasoned with salt, #1, paprika and puréed with onions cooked in lard.  Should have added more raw pork chunks but forgot to put enough aside.  Poached for 3 hours until an internal temperature of 150F was reached.  Awesome on its own.  The additional dab of whole grain mustard made it more awesome with mustard.

Fingürlicken rindswurst: a plump emulsified beef sausage not unlike the venerable Frankfurter, poached then grilled.  Twice ground rib-eye (erroneously sold as chuck at the neighborhood bodega) and chuck blade were puréed with cooked onions and caraway.  The idea to include a coloring agent of tomato paste and paprika diluted in ice water to preserve the reddish beef flavor was shamefully forgotten.  Despite the use of sodium nitrite (in all 3 varieties), the color was closer to brown than a reddish ochre. The sausages were poached then grilled.  The casings were crisp and after a characteristic “snap” yielded a tender, moist, beefy texture with a hint of caraway that supplemented by repollo curtido (Salvadoran pickled cabbage)  almost conjured the elements of a Ruebenesque hotdog by way of Central America, save for the cheese.  The next aisle over from the pickled whathaveyous featured analgesic Pediatyle style hangover juices fit for a delicate baby , notable a Latino themed horchata version.

Nürnbergen rostbratwurst: a short, stubby, fresh,  ground pork sausage flavored with cardamom, mace, chili and marjoram.  A delectably savory grilled sausage.  Properly seasoned and moist, though perhaps a bit over cooked by our generous host bar’s cooks.

An accoutrement of cauliflower pickles.  Romanesco, yellow and purple cauliflower with red onion, carrots, chili and lemon zest  in a 3% salt, 1.5% sugar and 33% concentrated vinegar solution.  Swedish Ättiksprit (24% acetic acid) was used in lieu of decongesting German essig (25%).  Outside of pickling, such strong vinegars are excellent antiseptics, formidable showerhead cleaners and offer merciless self-defense fumes.

Power to the Pickle.

An excellent evening which brought together a cherished group of all sorts from  parts, albeit to say goodbye to a beloved sister, colleague, teammate and social fulcrum.  However, the sausage innuendo jokes were limp before they even started.

Boudin Blanc d’Avranches, 2.0 Monday, Oct 12 2009 

Boudin Blanc dAvranches 2.0
Boudin Blanc d’Avranches 2.0

Upon discussing the textural concerns of the original Boudin endeavor with a technically savvy disciple of the esteemed Antoine Westermann, the decision was made to freeze the twice ground boudin forcemeat and then blitz it in the food processor, making a garage equivalent of the $4500 Pacojet. Of course?! The blades would reduce the frozen meat to dust and the resulting boudin would be smoother than me at a club on roller skates. It is unlikely that the folks at Cuisineart had anticipated their machine be used to grind frozen ground meat into (hopefully) dust. Rightfully so. The clumps of frozen meat spun around dizzyingly, and did little more than chill the forcemeat while dulling the blade. Bummer.

The forcemeat was stuffed into casings and poached as per usual, then chilled. The boudin were removed from their casing and browned in duck fat. Turnips were turned and glazed separately in olive oil with a whisper of Ättika (21% alcohol Swedish vinegar) as were beveled carrots. Shiitake mushroom caps were sautéed in the same fat as the boudin with rosemary and once tender the boudin, carrots and turnips were added as well as enough chicken consommé to glaze all of that junks.

Boudin bonuses: The dish was enjoyed with the sister whilst throwing down tiles on the Scrabbs board and “Eastbound & Down” for ambient ambiance. Sister’s light Scrabble score was challenged by the lightness of the boudin which trembled under the distressed breaths of her awful tile choosery. There are plenty of acceptable words in the English vernacular to describe the serene sponge-like texture of the boudin, but she was not able to spell any with her left-handed letter draw. “The distinctive shiitake earthiness and assertive rosemary was a sober Ying to the otherwise delicate Yang of the other shit”, to clairvoyantly paraphrase Kenny Powers. It was indeed “tight” (to use current urban kitchen parlance) and the sweet root vegetables provided a pleasant seasonal textural contrast and the Swedish vinegar successfully subdued the otherwise rich nature of the dish.


Realité cheque:
In hindsight, the grating attachment would have been more effective in shaving the frozen meat, a coarser, more Neolithic version of what the Pacojet would offer.

Rosette de Mont Plaisant Monday, Sep 21 2009 

Rosette de Mont Plaisant 2.0

A liberal interpretation of “rosette” since a beef middle was use in lieu of the traditional and difficult to source pork rosette, the veritable terminus of the pig’s digestive tract whose shape and alleged “odor” give the rosette its reputed characteristic taper and… taste? After intense research through both professional and artisanal French charcuterie formulations, and a disastrous beta version, a widow of imperative seasoning proportions was tentatively established and put to test. The salt proportions varied from a well keeled 1.5% to a 3.5% Superbowl party saltlick.

Initially, based on the recurring 2.8%, such a quantity of salt was used but the result was unsavory, or rather extra savory and on the cusp of parching. And so the first foray into dry cured sausage (2 pieces) was unsuccessful but taught a fundamental lesson in fermentation after too lengthy of an incubation. The basement kitchen was thought to have been sufficiently cool and dark enough to support a longer incubation period but after a week in the upper 60’s, despite shrinking, both began to ferment. A better approach would have been to refrigerate one earlier and then compare notes.


Both sausages were refrigerated for 6 weeks in a home refrigerator at a cooler temperature than what would be ideal (44˚F so that other immediate perishables would not spoil) and began to develop a slight bloom after the 3rd week. The test of taste was a formidable challenge in gustatory fortitude after the first cut given that the cavities in the sausage were lined with spectacular green mold (insert blushing emoticon). The ends were salvageable and had a distinctively cured taste, though in the heavier spectrum of salty. Invariably, as with any endeavor, elements of theory and practice were learned at the expense of a failed product and applied to the next since anything worth ef’ing up once is worth ef’ing up twice and maybe thrice.

The 2.0 version was limited to 2.2% salt, the same .5% sugar (to help in the initial fermentation which creates lactic acid and bla-bla-bla) and 48 hours incubation, then into the fridge. After 4 weeks:

Current conclusion: The 48hr incubation period, as recommended by Len Poli and other resources appears to have been effective and the sausage feels firm which would indicate that there are no cavities. Next update in another 4 weeks.

Cervelas de Mont Plaisant Wednesday, Sep 2 2009 

Cervelas de Mont Plaisant

aux pistaches et graines de poivre noire

Mount Pleasant Cervelas

with pistachios and black peppercorns

Behold the cervelas. An emulsified French pork sausage which varies regionally in terms of content and cookery. Certain Alsatian preparations call for the sausage be smoked or have it stuffed with gruyere and wrapped in bacon.Ouf.  In this comestible prototype the cervelas is a “white” emulsified pork sausage with pistachios, black peppercorns, fatback and spices stuffed into a beef middle.It is cooked in seasoned water for an internal temperature of 150˚.


Those in Lyon may season the forcemeat with truffle and pistachios and boil it. It can be served either hot or cold.Cervelas is roughly equivalent to the Italian cervelatta, though the Calabrian version includes white wine and chili, not to be confused with Puglian variety which is a fresh sausage flavored with cooked wine, fennel seeds and grilled.Ultimately, the cervelas is a smaller version of the Italian mortadella, the later stuffed into beef bung caps whereas the smaller former use hog casing. Cervelas are also made from beef, veal, horse, duck and fish.

The Swiss cervelas traditionally used, almost exclusively, Brazilian zebu casings, which were deemed the best, however recent European Unions regulations have banned the import of Brazilian beef since the World Organization for Animal Health listed Brazil as a country with BSE risks.

While the name is derived from the Roman renaissance term for sausage cervelattofrom the diminutiveLatin word for cerebrum (brain)since back in the day, cervelas allegedly used to contain brain, according to the CICT (Centre d’Information des Charcuteries-produits Traiteurs)

Hopefully this one, albeit humbler than the one served at Per Ser,will earn a better criticism. Personally, the final product’s initial shortcomings were that the forcemeat could have benefited from slightly less water and perhaps cooked a bit longer and to a higher temperature of 160.

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