It’s miserable outside; 34°F, snowing, windy and cold. I was drenched walking the dogs this morning, in spite of all my wet weather gear. I know the snow won’t stick, and I’m grateful for the crocuses, cherry blossoms, extra day light and the early tulips at the farmer’s market. But spring still feels a long way away.
Archive for the ‘Charcutepalooza’ Category
It’s been a year of living dangerously: curing raw meat, making cheese, tending bread and yogurt starter, making sauerkraut in crock that belonged by my great-grandmother – a year of re-defining normal. And I owe the attitude that fueled all that to Charcutepalooza. I started out nervous. And I’m ending triumphant, with a renewed enthusiasm for all things culinary.
Would I have started making my own cream cheese if I hadn’t signed on? Would I have decided my diet is best defined by a proactive standard, i.e. humanely raised, locally grown, fair trade, etc. versus just drawing an arbitrary line in the sand and eating “no mammals” without Charcutepalooza?
Recipe: Duck Salami
Charcutepalooza is almost over. And with the second to last challenge we’ve come full circle – back to curing. I choose the apprentice challenge this time, curing Salami. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time.
My mother’s mother and her step-father were both great cooks. My grandmother, who was born in 1910, never saw a reason to pay for something she could make or grow at home and so largely missed out on the food that was normal in my childhood years – Wonder bread, Tang, Hamburger Helper, and frozen peas. My grandparents had a large garden, fished in Puget Sound, ate seasonally, and cooked with butter, olive oil, and lard. Grandma Blanche lived to be 87, Grandpa Con, 91. Continue reading
In an ideal world this post would include a recipe, rather than just a link, for cassoulet– the classic French bean dish that I have yet to make. I’m half way there – yesterday I made duck confit – duck legs preserved in fat; an essential element of cassolet.
But while I’m excited about what I have done this month for Charcutepalooza, skinning and boning a duck for roulade, rendering duck fat, and making the confit, the cassoulet will have to wait.
An old friend I haven’t seen in five years arrives for a weekend visit tonight with her daughter. And someone very close to me goes in for important surgery next week. I’m saving the duck legs for her recovery. It’s going to be a celebratory cassoulet for a Sunday dinner sometime soon. I’ve got a lot of hope pinned to those duck legs.
Fear is always at the root of serious procrastination; fear masquerading as self-doubt, the nagging worry that I’m not up to the task at hand. And in this case, fear that I might not like the final product.
This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge is packing – making paté, or pork pie. I know from following the charcutepalooza twitter stream that it’s been a dream challenge for many Charcutepaloozians –Francophiles and many others who are accomplished and experienced in all things meat.
Presentation: a word that strikes fear into my heart – and the most important element of this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge. I know, I know, presentation should be important to anyone who loves food – but I have to be honest, I’m really all about the taste. If you are eating in my home, I want the food to look appetizing, enticing, sure, but as elegant as restaurant service? I’m just not that detail oriented. I’m already too much the type-A person.
Once when I managed a bakery in Boston, a wedding cake order was misdated. We thought the cake was for Sunday, but the wedding was on Saturday. In the middle of a busy afternoon, the panicked call came in from the caterer. Where was the cake? It was baked and frosted, but all the fresh flowers still had to be prepped and put on the cake. I called the wedding cake person, I called the owner. No answer. Everyone who works in retail food service knows the only way to maintain your sanity is never, ever to answer your phone on a day off – unless the call is from the cops or the fire department, because at that point, the crisis is actually over.
Recipe: Red Hot Hot Dogs
Willing suspension of disbelief: It’s the concept that enables most forms of art, that makes childhood precious and allows me to love the Harry Potter books just as much as my nieces.
And it also lets us eat commercial hot dogs – even after we’ve read The Jungle, or talked to someone who’s done the job of daily dog turning in a convenience store. Hot dogs take me back to New York City, when I was a college student whose Broadway budget allowed for tickets and bus/ train fare to the city a couple times a semester, but not for a dinner more elaborate than what I could get from one of the many hot dog vendors in Manhattan.