I remember my first trip to The Fatted Calf in Napa, California. Have you ever witnessed the sight of a child standing in front of a candy counter? That’s what I felt like on my first visit to The Fatted Calf. I remember standing in front of a counter full of cured meats, sausages, heirloom pork and thinking that I had discovered the place I wanted to spend the rest of my life. From that day on I never drove within 20 miles of Napa without stopping at what I considered my personal meat mecca.
It’s the fault of Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller, the authors of In The Charcuterie: The Fatted Calf’s to Making Sausage, Salumi, Pates, Roasts, Confits and Other Meaty Goods, that my wife came home from a trip to find pancetta hanging in one of the bedroom closets. I had bought some pancetta the week before and after tasting it I had to try it myself. It was not one of my worst failures, but it also wasn’t all that successful either.
At the time of my pancetta curing episode I purchased what was, at the time, one of the best known books about home curing meats, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn and set out to do my best. I’m still a huge fan of Rulman’s book but this new effort by the owners of The Fatted Calf makes me dream about cured pork products.
A charcuterie is a bit of a strange business, and the Fatted Calf is an unusual charcuterie
I recently had a chance to discuss charcuterie, butcherie and the book with Taylor. I asked him how his interest in charcuterie got started. “I’ve always loved good salami and bacon, but learning how to make these things myself when I worked at Cafe Rouge is when I really got the bug,” explained to me.
The “how-tos” on butchering animals is one of my favorite aspects of the book. It’s obvious that butchery is important to the Fatted Calf and Taylor. “Well-butchered meat is very important for roasts and cured whole muscles such as lonza and coppa, but you don’t need to be an expert,” he explained. “Getting good takes a lot of practice and patience, and if it gets messed up you can always turn it into sausage. The only serious no-no is throwing meat away,” Taylor continued.
So “nose to tail” cooking is important to you? I asked Taylor, “One of the most important principles of being a cook in general and a butcher/charcutier in particular is to not waste any part of the animal. I’m not a huge fan of large pieces of offal on their own, but diced and folded into a terrine or mixed with pork, pork fat and spices then smoked like for liverwurst can be amazing. Pork in particular encourages all kinds of creativity as a cook due to the fact that their skin is edible and there is a much higher yield overall than with beef, lamb or goat,” he explained.
OFFAL : the edible internal parts of an animal, such as the heart, liver, and tongue
“In The Charcuterie” does honor the whole animal. If you’re interested in “nose to tail” cooking this cookbook will teach you to use parts of animals you may not have even known existed. I’ve always been a daring eater and there aren’t very many things I can think of that I wouldn’t at least take a taste of if properly prepared. But I’ve never felt confident with my ability to turn “offal” into something I might, just might get some someone in my family to eat. After reading through “In The Charcuterie” I’m going to be able to try and cook something a little different. And hiding the “parts” in something will be a fun thing to do with the family.
While discussing “nose to tail” I asked Taylor what the most misunderstood item, in the Fatted Calf, was. “That’s a tough one- I’d have to say it’s our headcheese. If we didn’t tell people what was in it and called it a different name we wouldn’t be able to make enough of it,” said. I overhauled the recipe a couple years ago, and the mix of lemon, parsley, fennel pollen and chili flakes in it makes it one of the most flavorful things we make. It definitely has its fans, but there is a sizable group of people who won’t even try it. More for me, he continued”
Just for the record the cookbook does include the recipe for headcheese and it isn’t really cheese, but does involve cooking the head, feet (trotters) and shoulder of a pig. I’ll have to admit headcheese is one of the few things I’ve never considered eating, it just didn’t sound like something I wanted to try. But after reading the detailed, step by step instructions not only am I going to eat it (but only from the Fatted Calf), I think I may just have to drive over to Napa and pick me a head, feet and shoulder and give it a try at home.
Don’t get the idea that the cookbook is only about making dishes out of parts of animals you wouldn’t normally purchase or cook. The opposite it actually the case. The cookbook is filled with simple to make, flavorful meat dishes that will fit within almost anyone’s taste limits. Whether it’s Harissa-Marinated Lamb Kebabs or The Ugly Burger you’ll learn fantastic tips and new skills that will translate to other dishes you make as well. Have you ever wanted to cure your own bacon? Taylor and Toponia give you step by step directions on how to cure your own Brown Sugar-Cured Bacon and several recipes to use your home-cured bacon in.
“In The Charcuterie” is one of the best cookbooks I’ve read when it comes to translating complicated steps into easy to do steps that most home cooks will be able to accomplish with minimal effort and skill. You’re going to need some specialized tools and equipment if you’re going to tackle making sausages, potted, cured or dried meats. But each section has a “Tools Of The Trade” introduction that will give you a good idea what you’re going to need before you start. There are a variety of reasons to buy this book. You may want to learn about what charcuterie is, or you might want to actually cure some meats, or maybe you just want to take a look at the amazing photograph by Alex Farnum. Whatever the reason might be buy this book. It’s already one of my favorites and I’m sure it will become one of yours too.
- 2 racks baby back ribs
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons [url href="http://wp.me/p3jNCq-82n" target="_blank"]Five Spice[/url]
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons dry sherry
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- Baby back ribs have a membrane on the underside that must be peeled away prior to cooking. To loosen the membrane, score the underside of the first rib bone lengthwise on each rack. A small piece of the membrane will separate. Grab hold of this piece with a clean, dry towel and peel away the entire membrane.
- In a small bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, Five Spice, soy, sherry, and garlic. Place the racks in a large, shallow bowl or baking dish and cover with the marinade, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- To roast the ribs in the oven, pre-heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Outfit a roasting pan with a rack.
- Remove the ribs from the bowl, reserving any extra marinade, and place them, meat side up, on the rack. Roast the ribs for 30 minutes. Baste the ribs with the reserved marinade and roast for about 30 minutes longer, until the meat begins to ease back from the ends of the bones.
- To grill the ribs, prepare a medium fire for direct-heat grilling in a charcoal grill. Place the ribs on the grill grate directly over the coals and grill, turning them and basting them with the reserved marinade every 10 minutes, for about 1 hour, until the meat begins to ease back from the ends of the bones.
- Let the ribs rest for 5 minutes before cutting. To serve, slice between the bones to separate into individual ribs.