day ten - charcuterie

Note: For six weeks, July 5 - August 11, I will be enrolled in the culinary arts cooking and pastry/baking certificate programs at Boston University. Cooking is Monday and Tuesday, baking is Wednesday and Thursday. We have to keep a daily journal of the experience, so I'll be blogging about the class every day.

Something something making the politics and the sausages something about seeing them is gross.

This is going to be a short and sweet one, maybe. Post, not sausage. That's the sausage we made in the picture above. As you can see, although it was tasty, it was a bit dry. I should have gotten a picture of it extruding from the machine. Extruding! Anyway, I think it needed more fat and between the eight-minute parboil and lengthy grilling it was just cooked too long.

Anyway, it was grilling and charcuterie last night. We started off with a demonstration of gravlax (for the skinny on lox vs. gravlax, check this out), which is salmon cured with salt, sugar, crushed white pepper and dill. Press it down with another pan and let it sit for a week in the refrigerator, basting each day.

Then we grilled. Jody Adams' had demonstrated her grilled steak with portabella, arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano and truffle oil for a previous class, so we made that. It was delicious, but the main thing I took away from it is to squirt lemon on your steak before you serve it. It sounds crazy, but I will never serve steak without lemon again. With a healthy salting beforehand and the squirt of lemon after, you have the perfect savory/acid crust on the outside. You don't even know it's lemon. Also: clean your grill. If you wipe your grates and there is black crap on your paper towel, that black crap is just going to be on your food unless you clean them.

So, sausage. I think hot dogs have given a bad wrap to sausage. We tend to think, "Who knows what parts of the animal are ground up in that casing?" Probably some noses and stuff. So there's something to be said for making your own sausage, where you have a nice big piece of pork shoulder/butt/Boston butt/picnic roast/whatever the hell the supermarket has decided to call the same piece of meat this week, but a nice one, with good fat, and you grind that up yourself, and you mix that meat with your own spices and flavors, and you encase it in the intestines and you know everything about that meat, so you know it's going to be good. Nice and noseless.

Oh yeah, the intestines. They were hanging from a hook over the sink and we found the longest one for some reason, it had to be 30 feet long, if not more. I'm bad at estimating things. "Um, 42 million jelly beans in that jar, probably." But they are a bit stinky and slimy and you have to wash them out and then slide all of the casing onto the feed tube which doesn't exactly look appropriate. Then you try to fill the casings evenly, push out the air bubbles, tie the ends, roll the casing into links, parboil for 8 minutes and cook when ready.

Finally, we made a variation on Jacques Pepin's chicken liver pate, which I have made before because it is the best. Booze and fat. If somehow you could get a cigar in there it would be perfect. Maybe I'll make a smoked pate. Anyway, this variation included salt pork and white wine and cognac, while the version I made omitted the pork, used chicken stock for the liquid (I think) and scotch for the booze. I think it had more butter, too. One thing the other groups in class noticed was that their pate was coming out liquidy, so when it was our turn we reduced the liquid by half before adding it to the food processor. It not only made for a better consistency, I think, but a richer sauce.

Oh, we also made tomatoes Provencal, which was just tomatoes with bread crumbs, garlic and olive oil. That's what Provencal means - breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil, and sometimes herbs. All under the broiler. It was just an easy side dish to have with the steak.

Finally, we ended with a discussion of Jacques Pepin's phenomenal book "The Apprentice," which thankfully I had read a few years ago and brushed up on right before class. My classmate Sarah (who gave the excellent presentation on tomatoes Provencal) said she applied to the gastronomy program because she read about it in the book (Pepin is a co-founder of the program, with Julia Child).

Tonight we are back to baking, meaning custards and puddings.