Those of you who follow me on twitter (joamuse) have heard me mention my 12-year 13-year old foodie friend who I take along with me on field trips. He started out as a student at Create a cook with some of the other instructors and they all kept telling me you have to meet him. After 1 conversation Alasdair and I became fast food friends.
Let me introduce you to him by saying one of his goals is to get his parents to take him to a 3 Michelin starred restaurant. At home he has his own personal kitchen set-up in the corner with his Cuisinart standing mixer a portable induction burner and more tools than most home kitchens. He and I can discuss any cooking technique, and cookbook, chef, etc., at length. He's eaten in far more restaurants than I ever have, in fact he's my 'date' for a friend's birthday dinner at Craigie on Main for Whole Hog night next Tuesday. He dined at Stir recently and Barbara Lynch was the chef that night. He schmoozed her up and told her he wanted a pacojet and a thermal immersion circulator so he can start trying out sous vide cooking but that he was having a tough time convincing his parents, Chef Lynch not only came to his defense saying of course they should get it for him, she also told him he was welcome to come spend a day with her at no 9 Park. Jealous! The boy is food mad.
A few years ago we started out by making a traditional Christmas Pudding at his house. We hit farmer's markets, we went to Baza when they opened to ogle all the unfamiliar ingredients, we went to Kam Man a few weeks ago where I introduced him to banh mi with head cheese and pate and we wandered up and down every aisle investigating while he helped me pick up ingredients for some upcoming Vietnamese, Korean and Thai classes. There were two things he wanted us to make, brawn or head cheese and sausages. I figured we could start with the easier of the two since finding a pig's head may require a trip to Maine to visit Heritage Hill Farm in October (more about my visit there later!) so sausages were the first choice.
I chose Mexican chorizo, Bratwurst and the 3rd recipe would possible be Italian sausage, but in a nod to Alasdair being British, not to mention husband, we went with the chipolata from the book Alasdair brought me as a gift Professional Charcuterie by John Kinsela. He chose the book because he loved that all the recipes were charts. I need to get him a copy of Ratio stat!
I knew it was going to be around 85 - 90F in my kitchen and about an equal percentage of humidity so I bought loads of ice, chilled down all the equipment in the fridge, left the fat in the freezer until the last minute and cut all the meat partially frozen.
Alasdair acted as official Spice mix master.
We ground the meat into the bowl over another bowl of ice to try and keep it nice and cold.
Even with all these precautions to keep everything ultra cold we still had to pause occasionally and let things rest in the fridge before resuming the next step we sat down at the table with 1 fan aimed at us and 1 fan aimed right at the poor Kitchen-aid to try and cool the poor thing down. You could fry an egg on the motor housing. Since he has been reading Eric Ripert's new book On The Line we were discussing the various stations in the kitchen and he was telling me how long it takes to progress down the line at Le Bernadin, today of course we were working the Garde Manger station. I told him about Ms. Glaze's Pommes d'Amour and told him he really needs to look her up for a first hand account.
After it rested in the fridge and we gulped down more liquid, the meat and spices would go back under the mixer with the paddle attachment to add some liquid, in the case of chorizo it was ice cold tequila and red wine vinegar!
After we made all three sausage mixes, cooked off little patties of each to test for seasoning and chilled everything down it was time for the stuffing. Alasdair referred to the hog casings I been soaking in water all morning as 'granny stockings'.
The first batch, the chorizo, took us over 30 minutes to stuff, by the time we got to the chipolata we were down to 10 minutes. Sure, we overstuffed here and there, there were a few 'blow outs', but we just squished it back in the bowl and started again.
Alasdair took charge of the link twisting.
We started at 10:30 and finished the last of the sausages by 5:30. We were both dripping and exhausted but it was a great day. I sent home half with Alasdair and we kept half here to freeze later. Even though the sausages were twisted when we cut them to cook them I tied each end off to prevent the sausage from oozing out the ends as it cooked. Husband and I sautéed some onion and peppers from the farm stand we stopped by in Ipswich on Friday and grilled some of the Brats and I made some of the Cooks Illustrated recommended Yukon gold fries that you start in cold oil (novel, but it worked!) and all was well in the world. I'm not going to give you the recipe here Charcuterie is well worth the investment. Stay tuned for head cheese. YIKES!