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Charcutepalooza February Challenge. The Salt Cure.


Wow, there are a lot of you jumping on the meat-wagon. (Deadline for inclusion on the blog roll is February 1, 2011.) Kim and I are so happy to have so much support for our Year of Meat. I’ve made some changes to accommodate the enormous response – check out the pull down menu at the top of this page – that’s where you’ll find all the Charcutepalooza information for the rest of the year. Thanks go out to the amazing, brilliant, WordPress designer, Barb (@VinoLuci on Twitter,) who helped us figure it all out.


Kim and I were over the moon when Michael Ruhlman gave us a little link-love on his blog, and, behind the scenes, took the time to review and comment on our super secret plans. We’ve also been written up on Food52 (thank you Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs!) We’ve been called a trend in the SFWeekly blog and the Washington Post blog “Around The Water Cooler”. There was even a commenter on CHOW who said he intended to participate in Charcutepalooza.

And check this out. Punk Domestics set aside a new category of listings for salume and charcuterie and is interested in linking to your inspiring DIY kitchen stories. It’s a great site, so join, contribute and tell everyone about your Meaty Experiences.

There is more to come, but for now, we’re thrilled to have fantastic stories to read.  Stories about babies being moved to make room for ducks, Christmas in January (so far the only goose breasts participating), and how the French and Italians make duck proscuitto. Farmers are joining, city-dwellers, bloggers you know and love, and one young chef who has us all astonished.

Photos have been shared on Flickr – so many breasts on one site and no request to verify you’re over 18. And for off color humor and way too many meat jokes, follow us on Twitter using the #charcutepalooza hashtag.

Duck Prosciutto Posts Today

Today is the day we’ll be watching for your duck prosciutto posts. Remember, we’re looking for your recipes and ways you are enjoying your charcuterie. Kim will put together a wrap up post on the last day of January with some links to your brilliance, so if your post isn’t ready today, you’ve still got some time.

It’s not too late to join the Charcutepalooza. There’s no obligation to participate every month, but for those of you who post all twelve months of challenges … we’ve got an amazing grand prize.


Kate Hill has been incredibly generous. She’s offered up a place in one of her week-long butchering classes  at her meat school in Camont. Yes, that’s right. In France – Gascony, to be exact, learning about charcuterie where many say the craft was first perfected. We’re working on finding more sponsorships for more prizes and giveaways, and we’re firming up how the grand prize will be awarded. We’ll get back to you before long on all that.

One thing – we realize many of you did not have time to complete the duck prosciutto challenge. Therefore, in order to qualify for the grand prize, just make and post about the duck prosciutto sometime before the end of the year.

The February Challenge

We’ll be posting two challenges each month – the Apprentice Challenge and the Charcutiere Challenge.

This month, we’re taking on the Salt Cure. Where January’s duck was cured in salt and hung to dry, we’re going to be exploring salt in even more depth this month.

First, read about salt cures in Charcuterie.


And then, for the Apprentice Challenge, make some fresh bacon. It can be pork, lamb, goat belly – whatever floats your boat. For now, we’re not asking you to smoke the bacon, simply to cure and roast. Fresh Bacon. You’re going to love it.

Are you in for the Charcutiere Challenge? Ready to bring it? You’re going to make pancetta. Or guanciale. There is no need to limit yourself to pork, check out this inspiring take on lamb prosciutto.

first attempt - too loose

(Not on the meat-wagon? While not included in this month’s official Charcutepalooza challenge, you might opt to cure salmon, make salt cod. Even beef jerky. Why not preserve lemons? There are plenty of ways to play in the salt.)

Posting date is February 15th.  Please tag your post Charcutepalooza. And if you want to be sure we’ll see it, send a link to me, or to Kim, or post on the Charcutepalooza Facebook page. Kim will do a wrap up of our favorite Salt Cure blog posts on the last day of February.

Sunday, January 16th at 9pm (EST), The Culinary Institute’s Bob del Grosso will join Kim and me for a Twitterchat (at hashtag #Charcutepalooza,) to answer questions and get this meat party started. Details on the chat are on Kim’s post.

A Little Help From My Friends

Okay. Imagine this. You’re married to a vegetarian. You ask.. “Honey, could you take pictures while I butcher this duck?” Imagine the sound of crickets. It became clear I needed a meat-friend.

Back in September, 2009, when I finished my charcuterie class, I asked my pal Paul if he wanted to make some sausages with me, and a partnership was born. I have to say, it’s a lot more fun to do this with someone. And there are many charcuterie activities for which four hands are useful. For this challenge, we were all in the kitchen. Paul, Elaine, me, and Pedro and LuLu, the two chihauhas.


We started with two Berkshire pork bellies, one was a gift from my friends in Tennessee, the other purchased from Evensong Farm in Maryland. They were very different shapes – one thinner with less fat – seemed perfect for rolling for pancetta. The other thicker and a very bacon-like shape that looked just right for slicing.

Day One

We fortified ourselves with wine and duck proscuitto. Also fontina, pepperoni and mortadella from the local Italian market – inspiration for more projects in the future!

There have been many questions from all of you about pink salt. Pink salt is a combination of sodium chloride – salt – and nitrite – a preserving agent. I’ve made fresh bacon using kosher salt and I’ve made it with pink salt. The taste is nearly the same. Some people reported butchers who use sea salt. I think the bacon cured with kosher salt tastes more like pork roast than bacon, but that’s just me. And there is nothing wrong with pork roast. With pink salt, the bacon is a color we’re more used to seeing in bacon. Pinker. From what I can suss out, it’s all a matter of aesthetics.

on the left - bacon cured with pink salt; at the top, without pink salt; on the right, the rind

You can very easily forego the pink salt to cure fresh bacon. Eugenia Bone, in her book Well-Preserved, suggests a ratio of 3 Tbls. salt to 2-1/2 lbs. of meat. Be aware of this ratio and use your scale, and your calculator, to adjust the ingredients appropriately.

If you do choose to use pink salt, please wear gloves. No need to cure your hands.

If your meat comes with a skin/rind on it, do not remove this gorgeousness until you have finished roasting the belly. The bacon rind is a wonderful tasty way to get soup started or flavor stew, stocks… well, you know, anything, really.

We massaged a brown sugar rub all over the belly, sealed the meat in a large bag, and put it in the refrigerator where Paul promised to flip the bag over and continue the massage every day for a week.


The other, larger, thinner piece needed to be trimmed. I’ve included pictures of Paul’s genius knife skills and trimming work on our Flickr page.  Post trim, this nice rectangular piece was flavored with a strong peppery juniper and bay mix, then wrapped up for the ‘fridge with similar rub-the-belly instructions.

Day Seven

It’s another night at Paul & Elaine’s. We’re making bacon. It’s roasting in the oven, after a good rinse and drying well. Now, the scent is tantalizing us as we wrestle with the pancetta. Once the bacon has roasted to an internal temperature of 150°, we’ll chill it completely before making serving sized packages for the freezer. Some will be sliced, some will be cut into lardons. It will be appreciated, that’s certain.

We noticed that Paul’s oven, set at 200°, took a very long time to roast the belly. We raised the temp to 225° after two hours, and it was done 30 minutes later. I’m pretty sure the oven temperature was wonky, so Paul’s going to get an oven thermometer. Always a good idea to have a thermometer in your oven. This is my favorite. In my home oven, the low temperature setting is a little too functional, and I’ve had some issues with bacon roasting too quickly and become tough. So watch your oven temperature carefully.


Next up -  pancetta. Paul thought we might use a Silpat to roll the belly up as though it were sushi.  I don’t know if it made things easier. Maybe it  helped keep the belly from sliding all over the counter. Next time, I might try plastic wrap as the sushi-roll-stand-in. Rolling the pancetta was not easy. We got it rolled once, and even trussed it, but there were a lot of air pockets, something Ruhlman warns about. It’s these airpockets where bacteria and mold can grow. That worried us enough to become slightly obsessive about how tight the roll was, and how well trussed. Yes, we undid the entire thing a couple of times, retrussed (oh, that was fun), and finally, on the third try, had a fairly tight roll. I fussed for awhile longer, tightening the butcher’s string over and over. When you are trussing, don’t make knots at every junction… that makes it impossible to retighten the trussing, and you’re going to want to tighten it a few times. I’m hoping a year of this will make me a better trusser.

This belly was big – over 4#, and the book’s instructions tell you to roll from the long side. We could see it would be a very long pancetta roll, but we kept it in one piece to roll and truss, then cut it in half for hanging. As we tied (yes, it took all four hands) and tucked and worked to get the air out of the roll of meat, I thought about flat pancetta. Beginning to sound like a really good idea except it won’t fit in the wine refrigerator.

I’ve been tinkering with my newly acquired Craigslist wine fridge, now installed in a corner of the basement. I used a humidity/temperature thermometer and moved the dial up and down until I had the required environment for pancetta – the same as the duck – 50-60°F and 70-80% humidity. The temperature was easy, but humidity was low until I install a bowl of salted water in the bottom of the fridge. This pancetta smells divine even now, just a week into the cure. I’m going to go for the full two weeks, after which Paul, Elaine and I will get together for a taste test. I’m already dreaming of a pasta dish with cream and peas.

Recipes

When we trimmed pork belly for the pancetta, I ended up with about a pound of scraps, which meant rillette!  I flavored it with Calvados and thyme, using this recipe as inspiration, as well as my go-to rillette recipe in The Cook and The Gardener.

We served it with local black walnuts, bright green olives (oops, forgot to buy cornichons), sharp mustard and baguette. We needed sustenance for the pancetta rolling.

And with the roasted, fresh bacon trimmings, there was only one thing we wanted. Paul, Elaine and I share a love of the classic French lardons salad. Here’s our take on it. Note the aesthetics of the two lardons types – one treated with pink salt and one without.

IMG_4227

Charcutepalooza. January Challenge is Duck Prosciutto


This post kicks off Charcutepalooza with our project for January – Duck Prosciutto. This is an easy way to limber up for The Year of Meat. It’s an eight day project with no special tools required other than a cool, marginally humid location, 50-60° F. I use my garage, but have to watch carefully at this time of year, as it sometimes drops to 40°, making this process take a little longer. Others are reporting good success with wine refrigerators. If you just don’t have a spot, we’ll be on to the next challenge in a few days. (Speaking of our next challenge, we’ll be revealing the project on January 15th. Now is a good time to order pink salt.)

Breasts or Whole Bird?

In these photos, you’ll see I used the packaged Moulard duck breasts. I also purchased a whole duck, as I had plans for the other parts. I realize I was fortunate – here in Washington, DC, Eastern Market has duck almost all the time. Some of my favorite farmers also have duck from time to time, although they are less likely to have it at this time of year.

Remember, even previously frozen duck breasts will work well here, but beware any that have been injected with brine prior to freezing. The two Moulard breasts cost $23. The whole duck cost $25., and those breasts were quite a bit smaller (200g vs 380g.)

The two Moulard duck breasts were started eight days ago and unwrapped and served this afternoon at a lazy lunch (see above) as part of a larger cheese and charcuterie presentation.

I broke down the whole duck, making more prosciutto with those breasts – they’ll be ready next week. With these, just for fun, I flavored one with ancho chili and soaked the cheesecloth in tequila. The other is wrapped in fresh thyme and the cheesecloth was soaked in Armagnac. I have no idea how they will come out, but, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

With the rest of that duck, I made Red Cooked Duck with the leg quarters (OMG wonderful.) I made a teeny tiny duck liver terrine with apples, rendered all the fat for potato roasting and frying (YUM) and, then, with the carcass, Autumn Stock from Amanda Hesser’s lovely cookbook The Cook and The Gardener. Ultimately, that stock will be used for chicken and dumplings or chicken pot pie.

There’s meat hanging in the garage

You’ll need kosher salt, cheesecloth, twine and a scale. Ruhlman suggests flavoring with white pepper. I’ve used – at different times – white pepper; fresh thyme; lemongrass with Kaffir lime; juniper and allspice; and, Chinese five spice. Each imparts a glorious taste to the meat.

After reading the recipe and exploring the photos on Ruhlman’s post about duck prosciutto, I noticed he scored the duck breast, as you might if you were cooking it fresh. This makes perfect sense, as you want the salt to be absorbed into the flesh – so make sure to score before you slather on the salt.

Note that you may need up to 3 cups of salt. Finding the perfect container for the two breasts, ensuring they are not touching, but still snug, will keep the salt use in check.

I wrapped the duck in cheesecloth after a day basking in the salt, weighing each breast first. I hung them in the garage (keep the twine ends long enough to tie to a hook, rafter or, in my case, the steel shelf edge. In the past, I’ve allowed the duck to cure too long, seeking the firm flesh noted in the book. Results were mixed until I started weighing before and after, watching for a 30% reduction.

I couldn’t find masking tape anywhere. Christmas tags were abundant.

Truly, this couldn’t be easier.

Once cured, your duck prosciutto will freeze and hold up to three months without diminishing flavor, texture or taste. I haven’t held on to any for more than three months. If you do freeze it, take full advantage and slice super thin before the prosciutto fully defrosts.)

Now what?

Your duck proscuitto is ready. Serve it as an elegant appetizer sliced very very very thin. Something bubbly – champagne or prosecco – is nice alongside.

And – here’s one of my favorite ways to use duck prosciutto. (Kim said she’s thinking about individually sized mini pizzas with quail eggs as as appetizer at her New Year’s Eve party. I love how she thinks.)

Okay, now it’s your turn. Post by January 15th. Tag with ‘charcutepalooza’ and, please post to our Facebook page (and “Like” it, too!)

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charcutepaloozaSMALL

Charcutepalooza. Let’s make meat.

(Let’s just drop that pesky ’11 or 2011 or whatever.)

The Co-Creators: Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy

Twitter Hashtag: #Charcutepalooza

We’re kicking off the twelve months of meat so aptly named Charcutepalooza by Kim.  This is a remarkable opportunity to learn as a group, to share experiences, and to explore far and wide how we approach the elegant “craft of salting, smoking and curing.”

There is little doubt it’s time to think about the meat we eat. How we use the animals raised for consumption. How we treat them. How they are butchered. And how the whole beast is used to feed our families.

Stories of meat tainting and commercially farmed animals in hideous circumstances are far too common. Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate the appropriate, thoughtful consumption of meat with a year long exploration of the age old craft of charcuterie?

Charcutepalooza (say it with us, “shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za”)

We want to make it easy and fun to participate. If you are in, send me a message using the contact form on this blog. Include your name and your blog address. Everyone participating will be listed (with links) on a page linked to www.charcutepalooza.com.

If you don’t know where to hang meat in your studio apartment, don’t worry. There will be plenty of projects that do not require hanging meat. Duck prosciutto aside, each month’s project will be crafted with a wide range of applications in mind.

We’re using Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing as our guide. Michael Ruhlman has said he’ll be involved. More on that soon.

Already it looks like an amazing community of talented cooks will be involved. Watch for posts from GlutenFreeGirl and The Chef, Last Nights Dinner and A Dash of Bitters, Heathy Green Kitchen, TasteFood, The Peche, NotDerbyPie and Hedonia, to name just a few.

If you’re not a blogger, you can still participate. Post your experiences on the round-up post in the comment section, and share photos at our Flickr site. Or just read along and watch what happens. I’m hoping for a few good stories.

Hang on to your hats because there is more to come. Punk Domestics wants to run with this, showcasing blog entries from our Charcutepalooza. And Kim and I are brainstorming all sorts of fun and games. More on that later.

For now, let’s get on with it.

The Ruhls

  • Let’s celebrate the age-old talents and skills of charcuterie with contemporary takes on techniques, flavors and presentation.
  • Let’s agree to use humanely raised meat, sourced as close to home as possible.
  • Let’s write about our experiences. Not just how the charcuterie is made, but how we use it, serve it, flavor it.
  • Buy a copy of  ‘Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing’ by Michael Ruhlman.
  • Cook along as often as practical. There’s no obligation.
  • Post about your experiences on the 15th of the month.
  • Display the Badge, if you are so inclined; here’s how: Copy the following code into a widget on your website:

<a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.mrswheelbarrow.com/2010/12/charcutepalooza-lets-make-meat/”><img src=”http://www.mrswheelbarrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/charcutepaloozaSMALL2.jpg”
alt=”CharcutePalooza”></a>

OR

Right click on the badge to the right and save it then insert on your site and link it to: http://www.mrswheelbarrow.com/2010/12/charcutepalooza-lets-make-meat

Please, let’s not post the charcuterie recipes. However, recipes that use what you’ve made – that’s what we hope you will post. And presentation. And the photos. We know we’re going to love the photos.

How it will work

I’ll post a monthly charcuterie challenge on the 15th of each month. This will kick off the project and offer some tips for success. You’ll have one month to complete your take on the challenge.

Kim will post her take on the monthly challenge on the 15th, also. She’ll be addressing the charcuterie from her never-done-it-before point of view.

We hope our two perspectives will give you plenty of help and information to get on with some meat-making. We’re also hoping to get some expert help at a monthly twitter talk. More on that later.

(January is a special circumstance. We’ll start with Duck Prosciutto, for posting January 15th. That post is coming in a day or two. As soon as I catch my breath.)

We’ll post a round up of links on the 30th of each month. If we can find some sponsorships, maybe we can figure out some contests or giveaway. More on that later.

And each month, Kim will post her experiences, as a newcomer to meat-crafting. I can’t wait to see what she will get up to. Last I heard, she was looking for nightclothes for her duck breasts. No, not kidding.

We’re terrified and thrilled to set off on this project. Can’t wait to see how the charcuterie is served in your homes.

More on that later,

XO Cathy & Kim

Charcutepalooza. The Year of Meat.

Update: Throughout the year, you’ll find all the challenges here.

Roast Chicken & Old Friends

”There is nothing like roast chicken,” Laurie Colwin writes in ”More Home Cooking, ”It is helpful and agreeable, the perfect dish no matter what the circumstances. Elegant or homey, a dish for a dinner party or a family supper, it will not let you down.”

In case you’re wondering, I’m reading Laurie Colwin. Rereading to be precise. Back in 1981, Laurie set me on a food path. My sister in law sent me all of Laurie’s books for my birthday a good 20 years ago.

Thanks to Laurie Colwin, I thought about food in different ways from the very first of her essays. And I thought more and more about food food food. On and on. Julia. Marcella. Craig Claiborne. Ruth Reichl. Silver Palate. Amanda Hesser. Deborah Madison. Diana Kennedy. Year in Provence. Buford’s Heat. FoodTV, Bourdain, Mario. Sara Moulton (God, I loved her show.) Don’t even get me started on the demise of Gourmet.

Today, it’s nice to revisit Home Cooking. I see a new edition will be published this Spring. If you haven’t read it, you must.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Vintage Contemporaries)

And More Home Cooking is just like going back for seconds at the best dinner you’ve ever been invited to. After you’re done there, don’t miss her essays and short stories.

I know there are a million places to find inspiration for our cooking these days. Still, it’s nice to spend a winter afternoon curled up in a chair with a cup of tea and a book of stories by an old friend.

My Roast Chicken

I’m reading Laurie’s words, and I’m craving roast chicken. And, I’m determined to prove a point to myself. Many friends have quietly challenged my “buy local and organic as much as possible” focus. They say, in one way or the other, “it’s nice if you can afford it.” I decided to see what I could do with a $17.00, 3.5 lb. organic, free range chicken from Smith Market Farm (at the Broad Branch farmer’s market). In my heart, a $17.00 chicken is a bit ridiculous, I’ll admit. I’m old enough to remember chicken for nineteen cents a pound. So, my next couple of posts will be devoted to said bird, and a vague accounting.

I roasted the chicken on day one with my own method combining Judi Rogers and Thomas Keller and Laurie Colwin’s rhapsodies on roasted chicken. Using the dry brine description in the Zuni Café Cookbook, I tucked sprigs of thyme under the breast and thigh skin of a clean, dry bird. Mixed a scant tablespoon of good kosher salt with two teaspoons of fresh ground pepper and rubbed it all over the chicken. Tuck the wings under the chicken and tie the legs together. Yes, that’s it. Nothing else. Now, set the bird on a rack over a sheet pan and put it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for awhile, anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.

This next is pure Thomas Keller (Bouchon) and also Michael Ruhlman, who you can thank for the elegant text in all the Keller books, as well as the brilliant, revolutionary Ratio. He offers a brilliant roast chicken tutorial on his blog.

Fire up the oven to 475 or even 500. Put a cast iron pan on a burner and turn up the heat and heat up the pan to seriously hot. Add about a tablespoon of grapeseed or canola oil and get that good and hot. Now, put the chicken in the pan back side down, breast side up, and pop it in the hot hot hot oven. Set the timer for an hour.

During that hour, get four or five big sprigs of thyme ready, as well as ½ cup of chicken stock. Need I say, preferably homemade?

After an hour, test the temperature of your chicken by inserting a thermometer (don’t even tell me you don’t have one – you can find them in the grocery store, for heavens sake) into the fatty part of the thigh. It should register 170. Take the bird out of the oven and set it on the top of the stove.

Toss in the thyme springs. They’ll crackle – so satisfying – then pour in the broth and spoon it over the nice brown shiny roast chicken. Take the bird out of the pan and set it on a carving board and let it sit for 10 minutes while you toss a salad. Heat up the broth, thyme, crusty yummy stuff in the pan and cook it down a little bit.

Cut up the chicken and spoon some sauce over it. Delicious with roasted broccoli. (We opted for no potato or rice or anything. We’re trying to say farewell to holiday weight.)

I should mention – I often cook the chicken on the gas grill. I just heat it up to 500 and put the cast iron pan on the grill and put the lid down. It’s cooked perfectly in 50 minutes.

Next step, best done right after you enjoy the roast chicken dinner. I make stock while Dennis does the dishes. Rough chop two onions and three carrots and some celery tops and leaves. Toss them in a 5 qt stockpot with the carcass and bones. If you have the neckbone from the chicken, add that. If you have a stash in the freezer with wingtips and scraps and necks, add those. Fill the pot up with water. Add a bay leaf, a dozen peppercorns, half a bunch of parsley. Have some extra sauce leftover in the cast iron pan? Put that in, too.

Set the pot on the stove and bring it to a slow simmer. Cover and cook for four hours or more. Skim if you want to get fussy. This works wonderfully in a slow cooker, overnight. Shred whatever meat you find and toss the bones away. They’ve done their job. I had more than 8 cups of beautiful stock after straining. And I had 1 cup of shredded meat, and the meat from two legs, one thigh and one small piece of breast meat. Total of 2+ cups of chicken to use for the next meal.

Tomorrow – Chicken Pot Pie, or the Siren that calls to my mostly vegetarian husband.