30 October, 2007

Dia de los Muertros

To take in the true meaning of the season, you should sashay to the to the National Museum of Mexican Art for the Day of the Dead exhibit. It runs through 16 December. While there we loaded up on the sugar skulls.

The museum is located in the Pilsen neighborhood, so make some time to mosey around 18th street. We ate lunch at Nuevo Leon, poked our heads into some tortilla factories, and picked up some pastels at Bombon.

muy bueno.


24 October, 2007


Making lard and potted pork.

Say you have a big Autumn sausage festival and you have some leftover ingredients. Ask yourself what would the French do? OK I am over generalizing again, What would a person of Angers, of Le Mans, or of Tours do? Why they would throw pork scraps into a big pot let it stew for a few hours then put it into jars to be used as sandwich spread. Stick a "gourmet" label on it and folks will snap it up at Dean & Delucca for twelve bucks a pop.

Rillettes is part of a family that includes Rillons and Rillauds (Tic loves the three R's). All three start out as Rillions which is cubed pork poached in fat. Rillauds are cured in salt prior to cooking. Rillons and Rillauds are served hot or cold soon after cooking. Rillettes are pounded (pesto!) after cooking then potted and covered with lard. Oh boy I'm getting hungry, let's get cooking.

Making Lard.

First we need our cooking medium, lard. The hardest part of making lard is finding fresh pork fat. You can try asking at the grocery meat counter, but you'll have better luck if you go to a butcher or a packing house. Any kind of pork fat will do, it just needs to be fresh (it shouldn't have any unpleasant smell), and relatively free of meat.

Chop up the fat and put it into a pot. Place the pot uncovered into 250F oven for three hours, check it every once in a while, give it a stir, watch the fat melt away!

Once you have some nice brown bits and everything looks good and melted, strain of your hot lard.

As the lard cools to room temperature, it solidifies. Lard will keep in the fridge for a month or two before it starts tasting a little off. I have also read it keeps well in the freezer (just like butter huh?), but frankly there are so many things to do with lard (just wait until Christmas) that I usually use it up before I have to freeze it. Making lard is very simple and you get a product that is superior to what you can find in the store. That said, its okay to go to the store to get some, but the stuff sold in blocks at the grocery have hydrogenated fats and preservatives added and it really does not have much flavor. You would be better off to find a Hispanic market where you may find lard sold in tubs labeled Manteca. Wherever you go whatever you buy, always read the food label.


The next day I melted the lard in a medium pan (sautoir) and added my cut up pork shoulder and a bouquet garni. The lard should just cover the pork. The pot goes in a 200F oven for several hours (maybe four) until the pork is fork tender. Strain while hot.

At this point it's time to add some spices and start pounding. Now you can start pounding with a mortar, maybe use a fork to pull apart the strands (I tried), or you can drop the the lot into a cuisinart set for obliterate (I did). While the blades where turning I added the juice of half a lemon and a bit of chopped parsley.

Les quatre épices: Poivre, macis, gingembre et clou. Un peu de sel.

Here's the portions I used:

For the Lard

517 g Pork Fat cubed (That's a little over a pound)

For the Rillettes

862 g pork shoulder cubed

Bouquet garni made up of fresh thyme, Hyssop, bay leaf and 2 cloves of garlic

10 g salt

7 g pepper

1 g mace

1 g ground clove

1 g ground ginger

Juice of half a lemon

a bit of parsely

For the fancy pants look, I put into a french jar and poured warmed lard to cover by about a half an inch.


Spread it on some bread crack it with some mustard and you got a fun snack. If you want to read more about Rillettes go to the library and look up Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, by Jane Grigson, she has the word.

Put on some loud music and get back to work.


16 October, 2007


Cher Jloie:
I found mine. You and your brother take care not so set fire to Poland. Send pictures anyway.


Used book sales at the library can be a good place to look for cookbooks. Sure there are piles of Sunset BBQ books and Betty Crocker Microwave Primers, But sometimes you can strike pure gold. Last Saturday I found the Holy Grail of food nerd cookbooks, Larousse Gastronomique.

It's a 1961, first American edition, (book club edition). Five bucks. Sure I could have bought one on Ebay or purchased a new one at the bookstore, but where's the sport in that?


13 October, 2007


I have a tic. I know it because it happens every time, it's involuntary, and it takes a great deal of effort to control it. I usually don't notice it but my wife mentioned it a few days ago as one of the few things I do that embarrasses her. Whenever I am around a person who is speaking with a accent I start speaking with an accent too. It's especially bad when I hear a Brogue or a French accent. I grew up in Ohio, I have no natural twang or twinge, but it feels so good to shape vowel sounds in the back of my throat and roll them through the roof of my mouth and expel them out my mouth and my nose simultaneously. Not only do I affect an accent, but I invert my sentence structures and repetitively say in my head (at least I don't think I say it out loud) "How do you say...(Comment dit?...)."

Now Gentle Reader you may be wondering why you are reading about psychological problems in a blog about sausage, curing, smoking and whatever else blah blah blah. Well, a couple of weeks ago, I entered the culinary program at Kendall College. And the instructor for my Intro to Kitchen class is French. In addition to wanting to repeat everything Chef says avec accent, all the culinary terms we are learning are French too. My tic is a singing vortex, Batonnet (BA- ton-nay), Tourner (tour- nay) over and over in my head. After five hours I'm exhausted. On Monday we are starting with chicken (Poulet!).

School or no school I must get you caught up on what's been happening around the hermitage. A couple of weeks ago, we had our first Oktoberfest Celebration.

My mom and dad came up to help and we turned out twenty pounds of sausage and some sides. We made Bratwurst with marjoram and caraway:

Then, by special request, we made Italian sausage with parsley and cheese (not exactly German, but our most popular sausage this summer)

And we made a weisswurst.

This traditional München sausage is emulsified, meaning it's a bit harder to make. You grind ice with fat and meat then whip it into a mousse like structure. The final product should have the consistency of a hot dog rather than a brat.

I used a recipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. In the recipe Ruhlman stresses the importance of keeping the emulsion from breaking: "[A broken emulsion] though flavorful...will feel a little like eating clumps of soggy ground-up newspaper." Well I think I didn't whip it long enough; even though it was light, the texture was all wrong. Still we didn't have any trouble eating it all without giving it to the dog.

The first batch I poached I had the oven temp at 350F and some of the sausages burst. I found an oven temp of 300F ideal for poaching.

How about some sides?

Once again I tried to make sauerkraut, but after two weeks of curing it still didn't taste right, so I picked of a few bags of Bobak's.

Mom mixed up a little sodium hydroxide for pretzels.

Bonne Femme made a warm potato salad and apple strudel.

All in all a very good party. We will work out the bugs and have a bigger and better one next year, maybe you can come help make sausage.

Speaking of sausage my mom waited until the next morning to have hers.

As a strict traditionalist she insisted on having her Weißwurst cooked in water and served for breakfast. What's the German word for waffle?

Thanks to everyone (especially mom and dad) for making our first Oktoberfest such a success I hope to see you again next year.