Mediterranean Olive and Vegetable “Rillettes”

Rillettes refers to a spreadable meat similar to a pâté, cooked in fat until soft, then mixed with enough fat to make a paste-like consistency. In this recipe, the term “rillettes” is used in reference to the fact that it is cooked, chopped and blended to create a spreadable texture.

The base of the dish is roasted eggplant, Kalamata olive, and sauteed onion and garlic, blended until smooth. Frankly, the result is a less-than-appealing look, but the flavor works well to build off of. Folded into this are roasted and chopped zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, and red and green bell peppers. It’s finished with balsamic vinegar and basil chiffonade.

Veggie Rillettes

The color from the basil and chopped tomatoes and veggies helps, but there’s not much you can do to improve the color of the eggplant and olive base. Fortunately, it tastes fantastic. It almost makes one think being vegetarian would be survivable. Almost.

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Merguez is a spicy North African fresh sausage made from lamb. I’ve done this version before, it’s straight out of Charcuterie, but certainly not in this quantity. This is 10 lbs of sausage in hog casings. Merguez is often done in sheep casings as well, but I didn’t have any on-hand and didn’t want to risk waiting another couple of days for my order to come in, since I picked up the lamb on Thursday.

Fresh lamb has a strong, distinctive aroma to it, but the spices in this sausage were heavy enough to drown it out – crushed red pepper, roasted red peppers, garlic, Spanish paprika and oregano, in pretty generous quantities. The roasted pepper keeps this sausage nice a juicy… along with the red wine added to it. 🙂

One of the nice things about making fresh sausage is the extra that doesn’t quite make it through the stuffer. Perfect for a late night snack. Which I think is just about done cooking, so if you’ll excuse me…

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Pepperoni, as we know it in the US, is an Americanized version of peperone, which is basically just a spicy salami. This version is an all-beef peperone, which gives it a different taste and softer texture. It contains little fat, as it’s made from a lean cut of beef and no added pork fat. There is little similarity between what I’ve made here and the mass produced topping on your favorite ‘za.

All-in-all, it’s a very nice sausage, but I think tweaking the recipe with a little pork and pork fat may be in order. The same day I pulled this out of the drying cabinet, two others were ready, too. Some more chorizo and a duck prosciutto. With the bresaola I have going in soon, I should have quite a variety for holiday parties.

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New Curing Cabinet

I ran out of space in my curing cabinet last week and I’ve been wanting to expand my production capacity for some time. First step was a new, bigger, nicer curing cabinet. I located a clean, fairly new upright freezer for sale about 15 miles away and snapped it up. I just finished setting it up tonight and transferred all of my product over to it.

That’s four breasts of duck prosciutto in front and some peperone drying behind it. That alone filled my old cabinet. I’ll have three times the capacity with this, which is good since I’ll be adding some Hungarian salami and landjager in there, along with a batch of bresaola or something fun like that.

Temp is set to 60 degrees and humidity is staying right in the 60-70% range. So far, so good!

Next step is to increase my batch size capacity with a dedicated meat mixer to give my poor Kitchen Aid stand mixer a break.

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First Impressions: Salumi – The Craft of Italian Dry Curing

So it’s been a month since Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Salumi arrived from Amazon and I’m just now getting a chance to sit down and take a good look at it.

One of the first things Salumi does, and it’s important to note here as well, is define the word salumi, at least insomuch as it’s represented in this book. Salumi is, in short, the Italian word for cured meats. Not to be confused with salami, which is a type of salumi. Confused yet? If not, and in case you are wondering, the prefix sal- is derived from the Latin word for  “salt”, like so many of our favorite words like… salary… and salsa! Long live salt!

In keeping with the name, and unlike Charcuterie, Salumi is heavily focused on curing (dry-curing and otherwise), skipping the fresh sausages, terrines and confits presented in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s previous work. It is also pimarily focused on pork, though so was Charcuterie to a lesser degree.

The book starts off plunging us into the concept of whole hog butchery, as it relates to making salumi. It presents two methods of breaking down the beast, American-style and Italian-style, along with ideas on how to use each part.

The chapters that follow include recipe after recipe for various salumi. It’s a far deeper journey into the art than Charcuterie was, which really only scratched the surface and whetted the appetite (though, technically so does this… it’s just a deeper, more serious scratch). Much to my pleasure, after a pretty extensive collection of salami (with an “a”) recipes, Salumi includes an entire section on whole muscle curing, which I’m particularly fond of. Here there is a bit more variation in meat including beef (bresaola), lamb and goose, in addition to the use of venison in the following chapter on “cooked salumi”.

As with Charcuterie, Salumi offers recipes for numerous accompaniments to the products being made. However, unlike the prior publication, Ruhlman and Polcyn take things a step further by supplying ideas on how to serve them as well, including pizzas, pastas, soups and salads, a dimension previously missing.

All-in-all, I think Salumi represents a fantastic follow-up to Charcuterie. It is still written in the same approachable voice. They are not providing a guidebook to the professional, but an excellent workbook to start learning the art. I’m pretty excited about getting a chance to try some of the salumi in this book. The lamb prosciutto looks particularly fun.

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