02 June, 2010

Caul of May


Recipes (sorta)

Crépinettes des volailes et épinards

Gayettes de Provence

May came and went in a wink, but this time I headed the call of the poppy. May 1998 I was in France for the first time. The ditches in SW France were clogged with these red weeds. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to live anywhere else. Superlative proclomations aside, I managed to land in the Chicago Southland and in our little suburban garden I wanted to grow poppies. Year after year the rabbits took care to foil my French fantasies until this year: Four fine pops.

Alas the poppies remind me of recipe that has watched May come a go several times. My mom had a copy of Colors of Provence, from the library. In it I found recipe calling for a mixture of pork and poppy greens wrapped in caul fat called calliettes. The author was kind enough for those of us without easy access to young shoots to subsitute any early green such as chard or spinach. I thought what a perfect way to celebrate Spring, sausage and greens wrapped wrapped in fat. But wait, what's caul fat?

Caul fat

The Oxford Companion immediatelty turns to Jane Grigson to describe caul:

"The caul is a large web of fat which encloses the intestines. It is not the fattly frill called mudgeon or mesentery that actually holds the intestines together - what the French call fraise - but a cloth like semi-transparent sheet about a metre square, or a little less. If you see it at all in a butcher's shop, it will most likely be hanging in a greyish-yellowy droop, looking like a worn out dishcloth. Unappetising. Something you would never think of asking for unless you knew its value and usefulness..."


I stopped by my local abattoir (T&J Meat Packing, Chicago Heights) and nervously asked. The man behind the counter twisted a doubtful wince then walked into the back. You see I have been going here for several years and have never seen caul in the cases, I didn't want to make him go in the back...He returned with what looked like a knot of kitchen twine with a piece of shoe leather attached. I said, "Yeah that looks like it." He said "Ok, you want the spleen (the shoe leather)?" Uh no, thanks.

Caul Fat

Calliettes, Crépinettes, Gayettes, oh my.

While I was sure the recipe from Colors was pure gold, I wanted to find other recipes. I quickly learned that caillettes was part of a larger family of fat wrapped treats including crépinettes, gayettes and boulettes. At this point I will not claim to be an authority on what is what, but the different names seem to be based on the size and shape of the sausage. Caillettes, French for bird's eggs are small and round, Crépinettes are larger, flat and either round or triangular, Gayettes rectangular bricks and boulettes small like large bullets. I'm sure some Franco-Foodie nerd could ring in and school me on the exact differences but that's all I could find. Pork and Sons was the only other cookbook I could find with a caillettes recipe, but all my other sources were lousy with Crépinette recipes so I started there.


If you are to believe old French cookbooks, the crépinette can be made up a multitude of ways but it is always served with a puréed (pronounced, mashed) potatoes. I liked Pork and Sons suggestion of a shreaded potato cake so I went with that. I used Chicken and spinach for my first crépinette. Here are the quantities I used:

10oz (285g) of Spinach
1 medium yellow onion chopped
1 lb (455g) Chicken ground
1t (7g) Salt
2g White pepper
2g brown mustard seed
2g coriander
5g milk powder

Sautéing spinach and onion for crépinettes

Chopped spinach

Wringing chopped spinach

First I cooked down the spinach and onion in a little butter, then I wrung out all the moisture I could out of the cooked spinach mixture.

I combined the spinach and onion with the rest of the ingredients and beat them a bit with the paddle on my stand mixer.

Portioned farcis

I cut the caul in to 5 x 5 squares and put a few of ounces of the mixture in the middle.

Browning Crépinettes

Once wrapped, I dusted the packages with a little flour, browned them in a pan, and finished them in a hot oven.

Crépinette on forged iron

Yield: 8 Crépinettes

Note: Caul, as I mentioned, comes by the fist, one will suffice for this recipe, but try to get a couple in case they are busted up. I never paid never more than sixty cents a pound for this throw away item, but then not everyone lives as close as I do to the Heights. Once you get your caul, soak it in several changes of water, it will keep in the fridge, in water, for a couple of weeks.

Crépinette sliced

Leftover crépinette is very good for lunch

Crépinette Sandwich

Gayettes de Provence

Pork heart ready to grind

In her book Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, Grigson suggests a recipe for Gayettes de Provence, hey that's liver pâté wrapped in caul, I got a recipe for that, yo. Both Grigson and Larousse romanticize the gayette as a French picnic staple smeared on bread with a bit of butter and mustard. (If that's not love, I don't know what is.)

Gayette & Pâté  sampler box

Ok before I give this next recipe I have to apologize. I didn't work out a yield, and ended up with a lot of pâté. I used maybe two cauls then stuffed the rest into a casings. But I will give you this recipe anyway just because it tastes so darn good. Once made you can put this pâté in caul or casings or even a loaf pan, it doesn't really matter, in the end it ends up smooshed on bread.

Gayette de provence (de MAC) BETA

1.5 lb liver
1.5 lb Pork shoulder
1 lb Pork fat
1/2 lb pork heart (or just use more liver)
1/2 lb ice crushed

32g salt
10g white pepper, ground
3g ginger ground
3g mustard ground
2g coriander ground
1g mace ground

15g garlic minced

Fresh herbs: Thyme, parsley, hyssop, TT

To make this sausage, I took and emulsified approach. I coursely ground the liver, shoulder, heart and fat separately. I combined the shoulder, heart, fat and ice on a sheet tray and put it into the freezer until crunchy.

Ground pork fat

Chilling the mixture

Chilled mixture with ice ready to grind

I put the liver into the mixing bowl the ground the chilled mixture through the fine plate on top.

Grind mixture

Using the paddle I beat this mixture for a few minutes. During this time I added all the other spices.

Keeping the gayette mixture cold

I formed the gayettes into logs and wrapped them in caul.

Ready to wrap gayette

Gayettes ready for the oven

Cook them 15-20 minutes in the oven to an internal temp of 155F. Chill in an ice bath then refrigerate until ready to use.

Gayette sliced

Liver sausage (liver pâté)

Pâté en Ritz

Gayette my favorite way, for breakfast.

Egg, gayette and brie

Oh May where have you gone? Time to eat.


References (all links to WorldCat, so you can find these books at a library near you)

Colors of Provence by Beihn

The Oxford Companion by Davidson

Pork and Sons by Reynaud

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery by Grigson

Larousse by Montagné

French Provincial Cooking by David

1 comment:

noëlle {simmer down!} said...

This post is freaking amazing. Well done, my friend. Love the photo of the sliced crepinettes.